China Finishes Construction of World’s Largest Radio Telescope [from CAS newsroom]

 

 

FAST one step from completion. (Image by XIN Ling)

After more than five years of construction, the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope is finally getting ready to open its eye. On July 3, 2016, with the installation of the last of its 4,450 reflecting panels – equivalent to the size of 30 soccer fields – the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) is counting down to seeing its first light in two to three months’ time.

A bird view of FAST (Image by NAOC)

Compared with the Arecibo telescope, the previous record holder with a diameter of 300 meters, FAST is not only much bigger and more sensitive, but innovative in several ways: It has a much larger sky coverage thanks to its active main reflector, and a light-weight, adjustable feed cabin to move with high precision, etc.

“Once completed, it will lead the world for at least 10 to 20 years,” said YAN Jun, director general of the telescope’s designer, builder and owner – the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) under CAS. YAN was on the scene to celebrate the completion of FAST’s main construction work on July 3.

Installation of the reflector started in August 2015. In 11 months’ time, 4,273 triangular segments and 177 special-shaped segments were set into a unique cable-net structure consisting of thousands of steel cables, nodes and corresponding driving cables, which are tied to actuators on the ground to realize the transformation from a spherical to a parabolic surface.

FAST under construction (Image by NAOC)

The idea of building such a telescope was first proposed in 1994. After a decade of site surveying, Chinese scientists found a nearly perfect spot for FAST in Dawodang, Kedu Town in southeastern China’s Guizhou Province, which is famous for its karst landforms and mountains that naturally shield against radio frequency interference.

The project was approved by the Chinese government in 2007 and will be completed 5-1/2 years after the project was formally started – exactly in line with projections. When completed, the total cost is estimated to be 1.15 billion yuan ($180 million US dollars).

“FAST will enable Chinese astronomers to jump-start many scientific goals, such as surveying the neutral hydrogen in the Milky Way, detecting faint pulsars, and listening to possible signals from other civilizations,” said NAN Rendong, the general engineer and chief scientist of FAST.

“It’s time for China to have its own big telescope,” NAN said.

In the next couple of months, the FAST team will focus on testing and debugging to make the telescope work, said WANG Qiming, head of the reflector system and general technologist for the project. The official completion date is set for late September, and the telescope’s first data are expected around the same time. (By XIN Ling)

Night view of FAST (Image by NAOC)

CAS Vice President Tieniu Tan Visits Chile

Dr. Tieniu Tan, Vice President of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), visited Chile from May 6th to 8th, 2016, as invited by the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the University of Chile and the Chinese Academy of Sciences South America Center for Astronomy (CASSACA). Dr. Xiaoyu Hong (Director General of Shanghai Astronomical Observatories, CAS), Xiaoou Chen (Commissioner of Science and Technology, Chinese Embassy in Chile), Zhong Wang (Director of CASSACA), Wei Wang (Deputy Director of CASSACA) and Dr. Meng Su (MIT) accompanied his visit.

 

In the morning of May 6th, Dr. Tan met the new CONICYT director Dr. Mario Hummuy and Chilean Senator Dr. Guido Girardi. They discussed potential collaborations between the two countries in astronomy and other aspects of science and technology. Afterwards, Dr. Tan visited the China-Chile Astronomical Data Center (CCADC) and offered his suggestions for its long-term development. CCADC is the first major collaborative project led by CASSACA. Its aim is to enable Chinese and Chilean astronomers to better process astronomical data obtained from large telescopes.

 

In the afternoon, Dr. Tan visited the Department of Astronomy at the University of Chile. There, he expressed gratitude to director Dr. Guido Garay for the department’s help in the development of CASSACA and discussed future plans for the Center. Dr. Tan then visited the CASSACA office and was introduced to its staff and researchers. Dr. Tan applauded the significant achievements of CASSACA during the past three years, and he encouraged the staff in their efforts to build international scientific cooperation, to drive cutting edge astronomical research, and to develop the Center as a platform for China-Chile collaborations in astronomy and other areas of research. In addition, Dr. Tan met the Chinese Ambassador in Chile, Mr. Baorong Li, and the President of the Chilean Academy of Sciences, Madam Maria Teresa Ruiz, and exchanged ideas with them regarding China-Chile collaborations and CASSACA.

 

On May 7th and 8th, Vice President Tan went to northern Chile to visit the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA), which is assembled on a 5,060 meter-high plateau, as well as three telescopes dedicated to Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) research. These were the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT), the Cosmology Large Angular Scale Surveyor (CLASS), and the POLARBEAR telescopes, all of which are assembled on a 5,200 site nearby. Together, these facilities represent the state-of-the-art science and technology in radio astronomy and are the results of a wide-range of international collaborations. Dr. Tan’s visit is among the first that CAS leaders made to the 5,000+ meter sites in Chile.

 

ALMA is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes built collaboratively by several institutions from Europe, the United States and East Asia. It consists of 66 12-meter and 7-meter diameter radio telescopes, observing at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, with a resolution of up to 0.01 arcsec. ALMA is expected to be able to provide insights on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation. ALMA is located in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile, on the Chajnantor plateau. The location is one of the driest sites in the world and very suitable for mm and submm observations. After about 15 years of construction, costing US$1.4 billion, ALMA began full operation in March 2013. The observatory has since attracted close attention from astronomers from all nations and led to various new scientific discoveries.

??

 

CAS Vice President Tieniu Tan Visits Chile

CASSACA Council Meeting held in Beijing

On December 18, 2015the Council Meeting of the Chinese Academy of Sciences South America Center for Astronomy (CASSACA) was held in  National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC). Prof. Zhongli Ding, Vice President of CAS & Director of the Council, attended the meeting and gave important suggestions and guidance to CASSACA. There are more than 30 attendees coming from CAS administration divisions, the institutes in CAS Observatory system and Universities. 

Prof. Zhong Wang, Director of CASSACA, reported the overall progress and achievements of the Center obtained in 2015. Prof. Jiasheng Huang, Chief Scientist of CASSACA, specially introduced the progress in research and scientific programs in the past. Then the Council gave full affirmation on the achievements and progress by the Center. The Council gave practical guidance and suggestions to the Center’s development and future plans. Two new members were approved to join the Council.  

CASSACA has achieved remarkable results and progress in the past, over its collaborations with Chilean institutions and scientists, on the scientific researches, programs and projects. Especially, the CASSACA set up the China-Chile astronomical data center with cooperation with Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria of Chile and Huawei company of China. Prime Minister Keqiang Li and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet witnessed the signing ceremony of the data center in May 2015. The system run stably and went into the stage of software debugging and commissioning since November 2015. 

CASSACA was set up in 2013 and has been playing an important role on the international collaborations in Astronomy between China and Chile together with other South America countries. 

??
COUNCIL MEETING
??
GROUP PHOTO

Call for China-Chile Joint Research project 2015

Based on the principles established in a 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the National Commission of Scientific and Technological Research of the Republic of Chile (CONICYT), and the more specific guidelines described in a recent (2015) Agreement between the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC), the Chinese Astronomical Society, the Chilean Astronomical Society (SOCHIAS) and CONICYT (pdf), we are now inviting research proposals that involve China-Chile collaboration in astronomical research,  to promote astronomical research collaborations between China and Chile, to advance astronomy in both countries.

Project duration will be 1-2 years, with funding level around $75k USD in average. The PI of the proposal must be from either China or Chile, and the subject can be in any area of astronomical research, including observations, instrumental development, and theory.

For more details, please read the attached announcement (pdf).

China-CONICYT Postdoctoral Fellowship 2015

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (CONICYT) of Chile are inviting for applications for post-doctoral fellowships in observational, theoretical, and/or computational astrophysics. The official announcement of this opportunity is made at the CONICYT website (www.conicyt.cl) and duplicated at www.cassaca.org. The duration of the Fellowship is for two to three years, with at least part of it spent at a host institution in Chile.

Preferential considerations will be given to those applicants with proposed research activities involving collaborations between the Chinese and Chilean astronomy communities. Potential applicants should check out the two web sites above for more up-to-date information on this opportunity and possible deadline extensions, and are encouraged to contact prospective sponsors accordingly before applying. A catalogue of  research projected proposed can be found at http://www.cassaca.org/?p=631.

Applications must include the CV, a research statement, a support letter from the Host institution in Chile signed by the Department Director and faculty sponsor, a copy or certificate of degree, and two recommendation letters. The applications will be received at http://www.conicyt.cl/astronomia/category/concursos/ and all the documents except recommendation letters should furthermore be sent  by email in PDF format to postdoc.cas@conicyt.cl and echen@das.uchile.cl before the deadline August 31st. Further inquires about this fellowship opportunity can be addressed to Dr. Jiasheng Huang, Chief Scientist of CASSACA (the CAS South America Center for Astronomy) at jhuang@nao.cas.cn.