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China to open giant telescope to international scientists


Pingtang: Nestled among the mountains in southwest China, the world's largest radio telescope signals Beijing's ambitions as a global centre for scientific research.


The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) -- the only significant instrument of its kind after the collapse of another telescope in Puerto Rico this month -- is about to open its doors for foreign astronomers to use, hoping to attract the world's top scientific talent.


The world's second-largest radio telescope, at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, was destroyed when its suspended 900-tonne receiver platform came loose and plunged 140 metres (450 feet) onto the radio dish below.


Wang Qiming, chief inspector of FAST's operations and development centre, told AFP during a rare visit by the foreign press last week that he had visited Arecibo.


"We drew a lot of inspiration from its structure, which we gradually improved to build our telescope."


The Chineseinstallation in Pingtang, Guizhou province, is up to three times more sensitive than the US-owned one, and is surrounded by a five-kilometre (three-mile) "radio silence" zone where mobile phones and computers are not allowed.


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