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China is building the world’s largest steerable telescope, called QTT

Construction of the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope began on Wednesday in western China’s Xinjiang region.

Chinese astronomers said the Qitai radio telescope (QTT) will help address a range of questions, from star formation to the detection of gravitational waves, black holes and dark matter.

The telescope will also support China’s exploration of the moon, Mars and beyond by providing tracking services to rockets and spacecraft, with its 110 metre (360 feet) diameter dish able to point in any direction of the northern hemisphere sky.

QTT will surpass the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in the US, which has a 100 metre (328 feet) diameter steerable dish.

At a groundbreaking ceremony in Qitai county, officials said the project – led by the Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory – would take about six years. QTT is mainly funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and local governments and is the region’s first big science facility.

Astronomer Wu Xuebin from Peking University, who attended the ceremony virtually from Beijing, said the project means a lot to the region, in terms of attracting world-level talent and boosting socio-economic development.

“We have seen strong support from the local governments and I’m confident in the telescope’s construction and operation,” he said.


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