If you have been following my blogs, you already are aware that they have been heating up our ionosphere and thus our atmosphere with light and radio waves.  That is one of the biggest reasons for the “global warming”.  There is so much more going on at these facilities than we will ever uncover.  NONE OF IT ANY GOOD.  

These Scientism Magicians are performing rituals.  Meticulously timed and orchestrated to bring about their agenda.  I believe they are not only creating images, but they are opening portals and conjuring demonic beings and forces of darkness.  

If you watch the news, you probably know that in the last month the “telescope” known as Arecibo had an accident.  It will be dismantled.  I bet you were not aware that they already had plans to dismantle it.  Or that it had recently been granted a large amount of money.  Or, that China already had completed work on a new “World’s Largest” telescope 3X the size of Arecibo.  Or, that there are already 4 SUPER TELESCOPES being built that have much more advanced technology that make Arecibo totally out of date and out classed.  So, I find it interesting that it suddenly had an “accident”.

I also find it interesting that CHINA now has the most powerful telescope in operation.  Right when the UN is doing all that it can to make CHINA the new World Leader.  

I am amazed at the amount of time, energy, money and resources that are being spent year after year in the creation of these monstrosities.  Most people are not even aware that they exist, none of us have a clue what all they are being used for, and nobody asks us if we think that money is being well spent.  I am convinced more and more that they have been creating images both in the skies and in people’s minds.  I believe that the chemtrails serve multiple purposes one of which is to create a screen to reflect their projected images.  

Well, those are my thoughts… take a look at the information and see what you think. 


Naked Science Alien Contact – Arecibo

Analyzing Video Footage Of Collapse of Massive Arecibo Telescope

Dec 4, 2020
The collapse was on Tuesday morning, but yesterday the NSF made video of the catastrophic collapse available, and so many viewers asked I continue my long tradition of ‘coping by analyzing failure’ and document what I see in this footage. It’s hard to watch because this magnificent structure has always been part of the world of astronomy for me. For those that feel moved into action a starting point may well be this petition ask the White House to consider rebuilding the facility.… Juan R Costa’s images of the structure after collapse are available on the NotiCel site, they’re the best images of this:…


 Keeping you current

Massive Arecibo Telescope Collapses in Puerto Rico

The radio telescope was once the largest in the world, and played a key role in many major astronomical discoveries over the last 50 years

This aerial view shows the damage at the Arecibo Observatory after one of the main cables holding the receiver broke in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on December 1, 2020.
The telescope collapsed ahead of its scheduled demolition. (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)

On Tuesday (Dec 1) , the radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapsed, ending its nearly 60 years of operation, reports Dánica Coto for the Associated Press (AP).

The collapse saw a 900-ton equipment platform fall from more than 400 feet up and crash into the northern part of the telescope’s 1,000-foot-wide dish, per the AP. The National Science Foundation (NSF), which manages the facility, announced that no injuries have been reported.

In August, an auxiliary cable slipped from its socket and slashed a 100-foot fissure in the observatory’s reflector dish. Then, in early November, one of the main support cables responsible for holding the equipment platform above the reflector dish snapped, placing the entire structure at significant risk of an “uncontrolled collapse,” reports Bill Chappell for NPR.

These damages prior to the total collapse led to NSF determining that the telescope could not be safely repaired, and an announcement that Arecibo’s telescope would be withdrawn from service and dismantled.   (So we see that it was scheduled to be put out of service.  Apparently, they felt that it was cheaper to create an “accident”. We will see that they already have new and better technology in the works.)

Jonathan Friedman, a researcher who worked at the observatory for 26 years and still lives nearby, tells the AP what he heard at the moment of the collapse: “It sounded like a rumble. I knew exactly what it was. I was screaming. Personally, I was out of control… I don’t have words to express it. It’s a very deep, terrible feeling.”

“It’s such an undignified end,” Catherine Neish, an astrobiologist at Western University in London, Ontario, tells Maria Cramer and Dennis Overbye of the New York Times. “That’s what’s so sad about it.”

The telescope even achieved some level of renown among laypeople following its inclusion in popular movies: 

Filming Location Matching “Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo, Puerto Rico” (Sorted by Popularity Ascending)
    • GoldenEye (1995) …
    • Contact (1997) …
    • Species (1995) …
    • Encuentros (2003 TV Movie) …
    • A Day in the Life of GoldenEye (1995 TV Short) …
    • Location Scouting with Peter Lamont: GoldenEye (2006 Video)

Constructed in the early 1960s, the Arecibo telescope used radio waves to probe the farthest reaches of the universe. Among its most notable accomplishments is the first detection of a binary pulsar in 1974, per NPR. The discovery supported Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and eventually garnered the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics for a pair of researchers.

More recently, the radio telescope had been scrutinizing signals from pulsars across the galaxy for the telltale distortions of gravitational waves, according to the New York Times.

Arecibo has also played a significant role in the search for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Following NSF’s decision to dismantle the telescope, astronomer Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute penned a farewell message to the instrument: “For those astronomers and SETI researchers who have spent time at the Puerto Rican installation, the loss of this telescope is akin to hearing that your high school has burned down… Losing Arecibo is like losing a big brother. While life will continue, something powerful and profoundly wonderful is is gone.”


 Keeping you current

A Cable Snapped, and the Arecibo Observatory Went Dark. Here’s Why That Matters  excerpts

An accident in the middle of the night damaged one of the world’s most important observatories—and scientists still don’t know what caused it

A large metal saucer-shaped object, with a dome attached to its right side, is suspended high above a large dome underneath, the antenna. Behind, an expansive view of blue sky with white clouds and rainforest gives a sense of the telescope's huge size
The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, pictured in 2012 (Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

Since it was installed in 1963, the gargantuan Arecibo Observatory has played a key role in the study of the universe. Formally known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, the radio telescope consists of a huge saucer-like construction, suspended by cables 500 feet above a 1,000-foot-wide dish, all overlooking a panoramic view of the Puerto Rican rainforest.

A view of bright green grass and the dome of the antenna overhead, which has a large split running through its center. Debris scattered across the ground below, many panels hanging askew
The cable damaged the reflector dish, pictured here. It also damaged the platform used by scientists to access the main dome. (University of Central Florida)

Officials do not yet know what caused the damage. In a news conference on August 14, researchers said they still needed to assess the full scope of the damage. Subsequent repairs could mean that the observatory is closed for weeks or possibly months, reports Hanneke Weitering for

Most radio telescopes don’t have the ability to send out light. They only capture light,” Rivera-Valentín explains. “At the observatory, we can send and capture light. When an asteroid’s coming by, we are pretty much a flashlight that we turn on. We send radar out to it, and that radar comes back.” That radar helps scientists measure how far an asteroid is from Earth, down to the meter, Rivera-Valentín adds.

The Observatory’s dish antenna was once the largest of its kind in the world, until it was surpassed by China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) in 2016, per Science.

As the Times reports, the telescope has faced its share of troubles in the past: In 2017, Hurricane Maria severely damaged the observatory. The National Science Foundation has also been plagued by budget cuts in recent years, which means that funding for research at the Observatory has dropped precipitously from the 1970s to now, reports NPR.

“We’ve been tested before,” adds Córdova during the press conference, per the Times. “This is just another bump in the road.”


Arecibo Observatory Gets Grant to Help Protect Earth from Asteroids

©WIKIPEDIA / Arecibo Observatory

Knowledge is powerand NASA has just invested $19 million into the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to gain a lot of knowledge about asteroids.   (So, they just recently received 19 million and they did not want to waste it on fixing old technology when new technology was in the works and money is tight.)

NASA awarded the University of Central Florida (which manages the site on behalf of National Science Foundation) the four-year grant to observe and characterize near-Earth objects (NEO) that pose a potential hazard to Earth or that could be candidates for future space missions.

The observatory is home to the most powerful and most sensitive planetary radar system in the world (not once China built their newer, bigger, better one), which means it is also a unique tool available to analyze NEOs, such as asteroids and comets. The knowledge helps NASA determine which objects pose significant risks and when and what to do to mitigate them. NASA officials can also use the information to determine which objects are the most viable for science missions – landing on an asteroid is not equally easy for all of them. Information the observatory provided about asteroid Bennu, for example, is one of the factors that led NASA to select the OSIRIS-REx mission for funding.

UCF manages the NSF facility under a cooperative agreement with Universidad Ana G. Méndez and Yang Enterprises, Inc. The NASA grant will be used for operations, maintenance and upgrades to the radar system that directly relate to the Arecibo Planetary Radar Group, which leads this work. The group will spend up to 800 hours a year analyzing NEOs during the grant period.

The award also includes money to support STEM education among high school students in Puerto Rico. The Science, Technology And Research (STAR) Academy brings together 30local high-school students per semester once a week for 16 classes to learn about science and research at the observatory.

The S-band planetary radar system on the 305-m William E. Gordon telescope at Arecibo Observatory is the most sensitive planetary radar system in the world,” said the Arecibo planetary radar program’s principal investigator Anne Virkki. She received her doctorate degree in astronomy from the University of Helsinki, Finland, and leads the planetary radar group at AO. “This is why Arecibo is such an amazing tool for our work. Our radar astrometry and characterization are critical for identifying objects that are truly hazardous to Earth and for the planning of mitigation efforts. We can use our system to constrain the size, shape, mass, spin state, composition, binarity, trajectory, and gravitational and surface environments of NEOs and this will help NASA to determine potential targets for future missions.”


When the ionized upper atmosphere of the earth is illuminated by high-power HF radio waves at appropriate frequencies, the temperature of electrons in the ionosphere can be raised substantially. In addition, radio waves with sufficient energy cause parametric instabilities that generate a spectrum of intense plasma waves. Observations of these phenomena have produced new understanding of plasma processes. One consequence of heating and plasma wave generation is that irregularities are formed in the electron distribution which are aligned with the earth’s magnetic field. Because of this, a scatterer of large radar cross section is produced, which scatters HF through UHF communication signals over long distance paths, that would not otherwise be normally possible by ionospheric means. This paper summarizes results of radio, radar, communication, and photometric experiments that explored the characteristics of the volume of ionosphere which has been intentionally modified, temporarily, above facilities near Boulder (Platteville), Colo., and at Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
Published in: Proceedings of the IEEE ( Volume: 63 , Issue: 7 , July 1975 )
Page(s): 1022 – 1043
Date of Publication: July 1975 
 ISSN Information:
Publisher: IEEE
WAIT NOW WHAT????   I thought “telescopes” were about looking at the Stars.  For those of you who do not believe that they have been messing with the atmosphere and manipulating the climate… YOU BETTER THINK AGAIN!  They have so many ways that they are messing with our ENVIRONMENT.  SO HUMANS are not the issue.  MEAT eaters are not the issue!  The issue is the diabolical and deliberate destruction of our environment by the elite, in order to gain COMPLETE CONTROL of the masses.  NOT CONVINCED YET??  Stay with me… there is more…
THE LIE TO US, or at the very least mislead us on what they are actually doing.  These enormous “TELESCOPES” are located strategically across the entire earth.  LORD KNOWS what they are doing to our atmosphere.  CLEARLY the SCIENTSITS have been DELIBERATELY HEATING OUR IONISPHERE/ATMOSPHERE for at least 60 years!!  And they have you convinced that “global warming” is all YOUR FAULT!

A unique, high-altitude plasma cavity formed over Arecibo during an ionospheric heating campaign conducted at the observatory in June of 2019. Simultaneously, the Arecibo Incoherent Scatter Radar (ISR) collected measurements of the narrow cavity, revealing an exceptionally deep depletion of the electron density and a strong enhancement of the electron and ion temperatures.

The AO experiment and its scientific implications were detailed in a recent publication of the Journal of Geophysical Research – Space Physics. The team of researchers used the Arecibo Observatory’s 430 MHz radar to put energy into the Earth’s ionosphere, and then observed how the ionospheric plasma was affected. In response to the heat, the plasma density itself was reduced, forming the observed cavity.  (Do you see that THEY – THE “SCIENTIST” are WARMING OUR ATMOSPHERE and declaring a CLIMATE CHANGE Emergency.)

Dr. Edlyn Levine, Lead Physicist at the MITRE Corporation and the principal investigator of the study, described the motivation behind this work. “Modification experiments that leverage resonant coupling of high power radio frequency waves to the ionospheric plasma reveals complexities of the ionosphere that are important to understand for both fundamental and applied planetary science.”

“This showed that the level of modification that we can do to the ionosphere using Arecibo is more profound than generally accepted for a heater of our power level…” – Dr. Michael Sulzer, Senior Observatory Scientist at Arecibo Observatory

In this experiment, the team was surprised by the strength of the plasma cavity that formed. “This showed that the level of modification that we can do to the ionosphere using Arecibo is more profound than generally accepted for a heater of our power level,” remarked Dr. Michael Sulzer, AO scientist and co-author on the publication. “Every ionospheric parameter we were studying showed modification of some kind!” In addition to having the ability to modify the ionosphere, Dr. Levine asserted that “Arecibo is uniquely positioned at mid-latitude and has unique diagnostic capabilities, the most exceptional being the ISR.”

“Arecibo is uniquely positioned at mid-latitude and has unique diagnostic capabilities, the most exceptional being the ISR.” – Dr. Edlyn Levine Lead Physicist at the MITRE Corporation

In fact, the team applied a new ISR technique during their observations. They alternated the radar system on and off every 10 seconds, and then used the radar backscatter to understand the background conditions of the ionosphere better. This provided a clearer view of the plasma cavity.

Ionospheric studies have always been of interest to Dr. Sulzer. “There is still so much we do not know,” he related. “Experimental plasma physics is a difficult science. In a laboratory, your experiment is limited because you have to confine the plasma. However, using the entire ionosphere as a lab is extremely interesting because the plasma is unconstrained in size.”

Dr. Levine affirmed the importance of using facilities like Arecibo to obtain a more detailed understanding of how the ionosphere responds to changes like those created during the heating experiments. “We are constantly being surprised by new results from further probing of the ionosphere.”

The physical facility of Arecibo is incredible in scale and capability, but the most remarkable aspect of my visit was the incredibly friendly and knowledgeable scientific and engineering staff,” Dr. Levine remarked about her first visit to the Arecibo Observatory. “My hope is that this is the first of many high frequency heating campaigns that we can run.

DID YOU CATCH THAT?  They love having NO LIMITS to the experimenting they can do.  They have been HEATING OUR IONISPHERE FOR 60 YEARS!!!spacer

I am trying to paint you a picture of how insane these “scientist” truly are and how “SCIENTISM” is the new religion but based on the VERY MOST ANCIENT PAGANISM.


Logo of ncomms

Link to Publisher's site


Profiles of the electron number density in the ionosphere are observed at the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico on a regular basis. Here, we report on recent observations showing anomalous irregularities in the density profiles at altitudes >~300 km. The irregularities occurred during a period of “mid-latitude spread F,” a space-weather phenomenon relatively common at middle latitudes in summer months characterized by instability and electron density irregularities in the bottomside of the ionospheric F layer. Remarkably, electron density irregularities extended well above the layer, through the ionization peak and into the topside which is regarded as being stable. Neither the neutral atmosphere nor the ionosphere is thought to be able to support turbulence locally at this altitude. A numerical simulation is used to illustrate how a combination of atmospheric and plasma dynamics driven at lower altitudes could explain the phenomenon.


Since the 1960s, the Earth’s ionosphere has been studied with the incoherent scatter technique that uses radar to probe weak thermal fluctuations in the gas of free electrons in the upper atmosphere. The largest and most sensitive incoherent scatter radar is the 430-MHz system at the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico. At Arecibo, the plasma number density, ion composition, electron and ion temperature, and plasma drift velocity can be profiled by analyzing the backscatter from these thermal fluctuations. Early insights into the morphology of the ionosphere, its dependence on local time, season, and on the solar radiation flux came from pioneering incoherent scatter radar studies at Arecibo. The incoherent scatter technique was developed by a number of investigators. A review of early ionospheric research at Arecibo was given by Mathews.

It has long been appreciated that the ionosphere at both low and high magnetic latitudes can be unstable. Free energy bound in the configuration of ionospheric layers or in currents flowing within them can lead to the spontaneous growth of irregularities with spatial scale sizes ranging from tens of centimeters to thousands of kilometers. The irregularities can interfere with radio communication, navigation, and imaging systems, including satellite-based systems, and pose a hazard. Understanding, anticipating, and mitigating the effects are important aspects of space-weather research,.

Observations  (I am including this graphic from the article because it clearly demonstrates what the are doing to our atmosphere.)

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M.P. Sulzer, in Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences (Second Edition), 2015


The incoherent scatter radar (ISR) technique is a powerful ground-based tool used to measure various properties of the ionized part of the upper atmosphere called the ionosphereAll radars transmit radio waves at a target and receive much weaker waves generated when electrons, the lightest charged component of the target matter, accelerate in response to the incident waves and reradiate the signal. Reflection and scatter are terms used to describe the reradiation, depending upon the degree and nature of the organization of the electrons in the target. Incoherent scatter returns come from free electrons in the ionospheric gas, or plasma, usually with a strong influence from the ions. ISRs can be used to measure electron and ion temperatures and velocities, and the number densities of the electrons and the various ions.ISR has remained a useful technique for ionospheric studies during the last 40 years, because a complete, accurate, and elegant theory describes the spectrum of the scattered signal, and because inexpensive and easily implemented digital signal processing makes the use of new radar techniques practical and allows new and better data analysis methods. Data analysis consists of comparing measured spectra with model spectra, adjusting the model parameters for a good match using nonlinear least-squares fitting. The primary task of ISRs is the global study of the effects of energy inputs into the ionosphere and upper atmosphere, that is, solar radiation and particles entering along the Earth’s magnetic field lines from above, and energy, often in the form of waves, from the denser atmosphere below. ISRs verify many aspects of the behavior of the ionospheric plasma, including plasma instabilities generated naturally and artificially. ISRs also make measurements in the middle atmosphere, and can function as MST (mesosphere–stratosphere–thermosphere) radars in the lower atmosphere.

The required hardware is large: one or more antennas, 30–300 m in diameter, and a powerful transmitter, 1 MW or more, capable of transmitting for several percent of the time. Most radars are monostatic, using the same antennas for transmission and reception. Each ISR is the result of different compromises in design, trading away the less needed characteristics in order to lower the cost. The Arecibo radar (18.3° N, 293.2° E) obtains a very high sensitivity at 430 MHz by using a fixed spherical dish 305 m in diameter constructed in a sinkhole in Puerto Rico. Energy focuses to a line rather than a point as with a parabolic antenna, and the original design used a long line feed antenna. Today, a Gregorian feed with secondary and tertiary reflectors is used to correct the spherical aberration. With such a large antenna the feed is moved rather than the dish, with zenith angles of 20° attainable at Arecibo. The Jicamarca observatory in Peru (−12.0° N, 283.1° E) uses a large array of dipoles operating at 50 MHz to obtain a similar sensitivity. It has a limited range of pointing angles nearly perpendicular to the magnetic field and is used to study the electrodynamics and other features of the ionosphere at the magnetic equator.

Radars requiring full sky coverage use movable parabolic dishes, and accept lower sensitivity as a result of the smaller antenna. The Millstone Hill facility in Massachusetts, USA (42.6° E, 288.5° N) operates at 440 MHz and has two parabolic dishes, one fixed in the vertical direction (68 m) and the other (46 m) rapidly steerable over most of the sky. The Sondrestrom facility in Greenland (67.0° N, 309.0° E) operates at about 1100 MHz and also uses a steerable parabolic dish (32 m). This radar has moved from the Stanford Campus to Alaska and then to Greenland in response to the needs of the scientific community. These four radars form a longitudinal chain operated under the CEDAR (Coupling, Energetics, and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions) program of the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

The EISCAT (European Incoherent Scatter) Association, a consortium of six European countries and Japan, operates the newest facilities. These are 931 MHz radar with transmitting and receiving facilities in Tromsø, Norway (69.6° N, 19.2° E) and receiving sites in Kiruna, Sweden, and Sodankylä, Finland, a so-called tristatic system. The Tromsø site also has a monostatic 224 MHz system using a cylindrical paraboloidal antenna with mechanical steering in one plane and electrical pointing by means of phasing in the other plane. The newest EISCAT radar is located in the Svalbard archipelago on the island of Spitzbergen (78° N, 20° E) and has two parabolic dishes. The Institute of Ionosphere in Kharkov, Ukraine, operates a facility at 150 MHz with a 100 m fixed vertical dish and a 25 m steerable dish. The Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics operates a radar near Irkutsk (53° N, 103° E) in Russia (Siberia) which steers by changing the frequency between 154 and 162 MHzThe EISCAT, NSF, and Kharkov radars frequently operate together on ‘World Days’ that allow global studies of the ionosphere and space weather events. Originally designed for middle atmospheric studies, the MU radar near Shigaraki, Japan, has regularly been used in the ISR mode in recent years.


William Liu, … Andrew Yau, in Multiscale Coupling of Sun-Earth Processes, 2005


The Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) is a major $44 M upper atmospheric research facility funded by the US National Science Foundation in August 2003. Featuring a novel modular design, AMISR offers the scientists two advantages: relocatability to different locations around the globe to facilitate comparative studies, and remote steering and control to allow scientists to zoom in on interesting auroral and ionospheric features in real time.

Two of the three gigantic AMISR “faces” (each 32 m2 in size, with 128 modular panels) will be built at Resolute Bay, Canada, where a host of Canadian and international ground instruments already operate, making it one of the best locations to study the underexplored polar cap region. Many polar cap phenomena are direct signatures of solar wind-magnetosphere interaction, and proxies of magnetospheric topology (theta auroral, auroral patches, and traveling vortices); the debate on convection topology under northward IMF conditions is seen by many as a litmus test of competing theories of dayside reconnection. However, the absence of an incoherent radar facility in the polar cap has limited the study of how these large- and meso-scale structures cascade to small scales. AMISR will fill this gap by providing data on how ionospheric instabilities can be excited by external forcing and how the resulting wave-particle interactions may control polar wind dynamics, among other potential effects.

Canada’s involvements in AMISR is still developing. The poleward extension of the HF radar network, appropriately named PolarDARN, is one such possibility. The complementarity between PolarDARN and AMISR can be appreciated by the following consideration. AMISR is a powerful instrument to probe ionospheric waves and instabilities on the meso and small scales; however, its limited field of view does not allow it to see the context in which these processes occur. For example, not knowing whether the convection is four-cell or two-cell limits one’s ability to connect ionospheric observations to magnetospheric reconnection and convection. PolarDARN is an ideal complement in giving the large-scale information, much like the complementary value of THEMIS GBO to the overall mission. Other potential Canadian support instruments include Canadian Advanced Digital Ionosonde (CADI) and optical instrumentation

(including potentially THEMIS-type imagers) placed in strategic locations to allow stereoscopic imaging of auroral features underlying AMISR observations.


Are you beginning to understand what has been happening to our Environment?  I can tell you right now the motivation behind all of this is that the ELITE are looking for all the ANCIENT artifacts and Temple Worship pieces to call for the Ancient Ones and the Power of the Demonic forces.  They are also searching for bodies, both of animals, hybrids, giants and the rulers and warriors of the past so they can use the DNA to bring them back.  They have been changing the weather to melt the ice, move the water out of the way to reveal these things.  They have also been digging like crazy under the earth, yes to build their shelter from what is coming, but also to cause instability and bring about earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, floods, and volcano eruptions. 

There’s about to be some new telescopes in town.
The Extremely Large Telescope, shown in an artist rendering on location in Chile, will be one of a new crop of telescopes that could change astronomy forever.
ESO/L. Calçada

When the Hooker Telescope first looked skyward in 1917, no one knew what wonders it might reveal. Within a decade, astronomer Edwin Hubble used it — then the largest telescope in the world, at 100 inches across — to discover that galaxies exist beyond the Milky Way, and that the universe is expanding.

History repeated itself starting in 1949, when the 200-inch Hale Telescope took its first photograph of the night sky. In the early 1960s, astronomer Maarten Schmidt used the instrument to analyze unusual, “quasi-stellar radio sources”quasars for short. These turned out to be supermassive black holes accreting matter in the centers of galaxies, a science-fiction fantasy when the Hale Telescope was built.

By the 1990s, technology advanced far enough to usher in an era of telescopes 8 to 10 meters across (26 to 33 feet), and the same story played out once more. With an essential assist from the 2.4-meter Hubble Space Telescope orbiting above Earth’s imagedistorting atmosphere, these instruments could analyze a few dozen distant Type Ia supernovas— the cataclysmic explosions of white dwarf stars. Shockingly, researchers discovered that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Again, this was only possible with the increased firepower of the latest telescopes.

Now, astronomers stand on the threshold of a new telescope revolution. During the next several years, researchers expect three instruments that are more than twice the size of their closest competitors to start scanning the skies. And a fourth telescope, one “only” 8 meters in diameter, will use advanced technology to image the entire night sky every three days.

This quartet of new instruments promises to deliver stunning scienceon the hot-button issues. But, as with the previous great leaps forward in size, the new scopes likely will also make discoveries that no one can yet envision. As Pat McCarthy, vice president of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Organization, puts it: “We expect to learn things we don’t know.”

Size matters

Astronomers are always looking to stretch boundaries — to see fainter objects in greater detail. A bigger telescope collects more light, and so allows a deeper view of the cosmos. Double the diameter of the main mirror gathering light for the telescope and you’ve quadrupled its surface area, and thus the amount of light it gets. An observation that once took four hours can now be accomplished in one, and this same mirror will let you see roughly twice as far away.

The Las Campanas Observatory, shown here in an artist’s rendering, is due to be completed in about 10 years. The observatory will combine seven mirror segments for a telescope effectively 24.5 meters across— about 10 times the size of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation/Produced by Mason Media Inc.

But you might wonder where the law of diminishing returns sets in. There’s only so far you can see, after all. Perhaps the Hubble Space Telescope recently approached those limits when it wrapped up its Frontier Fields program, which allowed researchers to observe galaxies as they existed only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. And for closer objects, Hubble delivers images beyond compare despite a relatively small size. What else can people want?

Well, professional astronomers don’t live by imaging alone. More often than not, they need breakdowns of light, called spectra, of the things they observe, to tease out information about an object’s temperature, velocity, rotation and composition. Indeed, a spectrum is the only way to distinguish starlight from a glowing gas cloud, or a faint star in the Milky Way’s vicinity from a fuzzy galaxy in a distant corner of the universe. And to get enough light to do even a minimal amount of spectral analysis takes about 100 times longer than getting an image does.Luckily, bigger scopes allow that processing time to come down significantly.

Resolution also increases with a telescope’s diameter. Make a mirror twice as wide and it delivers twice as much detail. And thanks to a quirk of physics, you can reap the same benefit by placing smaller telescopes farther apart and then combining their light, through a process known as interferometry. (Radio astronomers using this technique produced the first image of a black hole earlier this year: A global network of radio telescopes saw across about 54 million light-years to capture the supermassive black hole at the center of the giant galaxy M87.)

Ground-based telescopes face an additional challenge: Earth’s detail-destroying atmosphere. As light from a celestial object passes through air at different temperatures, it gets jostled about and loses clarity. That’s a big reason why designers place large telescopes on high mountaintops — there’s far less air above them to interfere. Even temperature differences between the air outside and inside a telescope’s dome can generate air currents that adversely affect an image’s sharpness.

That’s where adaptive optics comes in. In the past few decades, astronomers have honed this technique, which mechanically compensates for any atmospheric shenanigans and delivers images nearly as sharp as the mirror can theoretically produce. The heart of an adaptive optics system is a thin, flexible, computer-controlled mirror. Astronomers target a fairly bright reference star close to the object they want to study. The computer analyzes the incoming light to measure how the atmosphere blurs it, then tells the control system how to adjust the mirror’s shape to correct the image in real-time. Because atmospheric turbulence changes constantly, such systems can alter the mirror’s shape up to 1,000 times each second. And if no bright reference star lies nearby — as often happens — astronomers can simply shine powerful laser beams into Earth’s upper atmosphere and create their own reference light.

Making mirrors

Before they can take advantage of the next generation of telescopes, of course, engineers have to craft the parts — namely, those essential and enormous mirrors. Astronomers have developed two designs for them.

Each of the Giant Magellan Telescope’s seven mirror segments must be carefully crafted to exact specifications, to ensure accurate observations. Here, staff at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab place a fresh layer of glass into a mirror mold.
Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation

In the first, they cast a single, monolithic mirror. University of Arizona astronomer Roger Angel pioneered this method after conducting a backyard experiment around 1980. Technicians start the process by loading chunks of glass into a furnace mold. They then raise the furnace’s temperature to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, and spin the entire assembly at a rate of five revolutions per minute. Once the chunks melt to the consistency of thick honey, the glass flows into a bowl-like or parabolic shape — perfect for focusing incoming starlight — as a result of the rotation. The mirrors are no more than 1 inch thick and have a honeycomb structure to keep their weight down. Technicians then grind and polish the mirror’s surface to the exact shape needed.

Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab has cast mirrors for many of the world’s largest telescopes, including the 6.5-meter MMT Observatory and the twin 8.4-meter monsters of the Large Binocular Telescope, both in Arizona.

A crane lifts one mirror segment from the furnace floor at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab.
Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation

The second design technique, developed in 1977 by the late astronomer Jerry Nelson of the University of California, Santa Cruz, combines many hexagonal mirror segments into a single structure. Although the segments themselves are not huge, joining them together can result in a world-class telescope. Both of the 10-meter Keck telescopes on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea feature 36 (6×6) segments, each about 6 (X6) feet across and weighing 880 pounds. The 10.4-meter Gran Telescopio Canarias on La Palma in the Canary Islands has the same number of hexagonal segments as the slightly smaller Kecks.  (do you see the devil’s name written all over this?  Do you know what Palms represent?  the segments of mirrors (portals, scrying vessels to allow demons through are 6x6x6 or 666.)

Superfast sky survey

So what will these new instruments actually be, and what will they do? Of the four next-generation scopes preparing to revolutionize astronomy, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory should be the first to land on the scene. What sets the Rubin Observatory’s Simonyi Survey Telescope apart is not its size — its 8.4-meter primary mirror would fit in comfortably at several current mountaintop observatories — but its ability to image wide swaths of sky quickly.  (Or rather, its ability to place images in the sky.)

Situated atop Cerro Pachón in north-central Chile, the Rubin Observatory should take just 15 seconds to deliver sharp images covering 9.6 square degrees of sky — equivalent to the area of more than 40 full Moons, and nearly 5,000 times the field of Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory will capture photos covering the entire night sky, starting in just a few years. This artist rendering shows the exterior of the relatively modest instrument, 8 meters across, on its Chilean mountaintop.

“The [Rubin Observatory] will get the big picture in space-time by taking over 800 images [nightly] of every visible patch of sky in six color filters,” says Rubin Observatory chief scientist Tony Tyson of the University of California, Davis. “This will be a digital color movie of the universe, probing nature in new ways.”

Equally important to the Rubin Observatory’s success is its 3.2gigapixel imaging camera. The largest digital camera in the world is not one you would want to lug along on your next vacation: It spans 5.5 by 9.8 feet and weighs about 6,200 pounds. With it, the Rubin Observatory will take two consecutive 15-second images of a single patch of sky, and then quickly compare them to reject any stray radiation hitting the detectors. (It’s similar to taking multiple photos of a famous building to digitally remove the tourists.) The scope then whips to the next area of sky — a movement that takes just 10 seconds, on average — and repeats the process. Such rapid-fire imaging means the Rubin Observatory can cover the entire sky visible from Cerro Pachón every three days.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Simonyi Survey Telescope will capture photos covering the entire night sky, starting in just a few years. This artist rendering shows interior of the instrument.
Todd Mason, Mason Productions Inc./LSST Corporation

Computer software will initially process the images in 60 seconds, looking for anything that has changed brightness or position compared with previous images of the same area. When it finds something, it’ll immediately send out an alert to researchers for quick follow-up. Astronomers expect the Rubin Observatory to deliver up to 10 million alerts per night — an average of 278 per second during a typical 10-hour observing session.

Does anyone have any incling what all this technology is costing???  Not only to build and equip all these facilities, but to constantly supply the material  and personnel for them to run 24/7? 

This will be a boon to scientists studying transient events, such as the stellar explosions that produce novas and supernovas. The Rubin Observatory’s efforts should also develop a detailed census of small solar system objects, discovering 10 to 100 times more near-Earth objects and distant Kuiper Belt objects beyond Neptune’s orbit.

I will tell you what, if they put as much money and effort into the earth and what we have going on right here… we would all be much better off.

The Simonyi Survey Telescope’s mirror, cast in the Caris Mirror Lab starting in March 2008, made it to the mountaintop May 11, 2019. Astronomers expect it to come online in 2021, with full science operations for its planned 10-year survey starting in 2022 after it’s fully calibrated.

Seven times the charm

If one huge mirror can deliver so much science, why not try seven? That’s the idea behind the GMT, under construction at Chile’s Las Campanas Observatory. The GMT comprises seven 8.4-meter mirrors in a single structure, arranged in a daisylike pattern with one central mirror surrounded by six “petals. The Caris Mirror Lab has been busy working on this project, and just completed the second mirror in July; the next three have all been cast and are at various stages of grinding, polishing or testing. At Las Campanas, a 40-person crew finished excavating the telescope’s foundation last spring.

Construction has already begun on the Giant Magellan Telescope at Chile’s Las Campanas Observatory, due to be completed in about 10 years.
Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation

“We can operate with four mirrors in place,” says McCarthy. “That still makes it the largest telescope in the world by far.” The GMT should reach that milestone in 2026, and all seven should be in place by 2028. Collectively, the mirrors will give the instrument an effective aperture of 24.5  (8×3 =24  or 888 )meters, about 10 times that of Hubble, so it should achieve resolutions 10 times better than the orbiting observatory. And its location some 8,248  (88888) feet above sea level in the arid Atacama Desert will give it superb views in visible light as well as the near-infrared spectrum. But it won’t be the only one with those new and improved views.

A hex upon Your scope

The other two giant telescopes of the next decade have gone a different route. Both the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will consist of hundreds of hexagonal segments joined together to create mammoth collecting areas.

Europe’s ELT boasts 798 (7+9 = 16 or 2 X8 or 8 8 8) segments in its primary mirror — each measuring 55 inches across — giving the telescope’s primary mirror an aperture of 39 (or 3 sixes if you turn the 9 upside down.  666) meters. The German optical company Schott cast the first of these segments in early 2018, and has been churning them out since. Groundbreaking for the mammoth telescope took place in June 2014 on Cerro Armazones, a 9,993- (or 666, 666, 666) foot mountain in Chile. If all goes according to plan, the ELT should see first light in 2025, around the same time as the GMT.

The Extremely Large Telescope, shown using lasers to help imaging software correct distortions in the atmosphere.
ESO/L. Calçada

As its name suggests, the TMT’s 492 segments will give the telescope’s primary mirror an aperture of 30 meters. The project’s Japanese partners are producing the rough mirrors, (The Japanese are the ones who taught the USA to create Magic Mirrors.) which are  the same size as the ELT’s, while groups in Japan, China, (China is where they where Japan learned the art.) India (India is likely where the art began to be practised) and the United States will polish, cut and mount them. The TMT will join its Keck cousins on the summit of Mauna Kea at an altitude of 13,287 feet. The site gives the TMT access to the entire northern sky, something none of the other three can get from their sites in Chile. It is also the highest of the big new scopes, placing it above more of Earth’s atmosphere.

But the site also comes with a major drawback. Mauna Kea is sacred to Native Hawaiians, and the telescope’s construction has drawn various protests. It wasn’t clear whether the new observatory would ever be built, but Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled in October 2018 that construction could proceed.

The TMT’s enclosure — which will house the scope itself and related electronics — is already finished and awaiting shipment to the island from Canada. With the legal challenges presumably settled, scientists are looking toward first light in 2026.

Science by the boatload

With their unprecedented light-gathering power and resolution, the GMT, ELT and TMT promise astronomers the best views yet of faint objects and crowded regions. Scientists expect these behemoths to shed light on a variety of vexing problems. Close to home, hunting for Earth-like planets in Earth-like orbits around nearby stars will be a priority. Even more exciting will be the new ability to scrutinize these worlds. “Most of these exoplanets are in too close to their parent stars to study today,” says McCarthy. But with the GMT and other large scopes, “We’ll separate the light of hundreds of planets from their host stars. We’ll be able to track weather through color changes and look at the chemistry of planetary atmospheres.”

The Thirty Meter Telescope will provide astronomers better, closer views of the universe.
TMT International Observatory

Star birth and star death should also be fertile fields of study. High-resolution spectra will help researchers understand why stars come in such a wide range of masses, and probe deeper than ever into the lower-mass failed stars known as brown dwarfs. At the opposite end of a star’s life, these monster instruments will search for supernovas in the farthest reaches of the universe and study closer ones in extraordinary detail, looking at the cosmic alchemy happening in these exploding stars. The scopes’ high resolution will also let astronomers study the crowded central regions of the Milky Way Galaxy and star clusters such as R136 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

These giant telescopes should also answer even bigger questions about the basic structure of the universe. With these large-aperture scopes and infrared capabilities, McCarthy says, “we’ll [be able to] look back to the early universe, to galaxies only 100 to 500 million years old.” This will be a vital first link to providing a grand view of how galaxies evolve over time, and their relation to the supermassive black holes at their centers. The scopes should even illuminate how the Milky Way has grown by swallowing nearby dwarf companions, and potentially solve the riddle of what came first: galaxies or their black holes.

On the biggest stage, the cosmos still baffles scientists seeking explanations of the dark matter that holds galaxies together and the dark energy that causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate. These new telescopes will provide vital new data to help solve these mysteries, and may help resolve the discrepancy between different ways of measuring the universe’s expansion rate.

In most of these endeavors, the big new scopes will work together with the orbiting 6.5-meter James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2021. With any luck, we may know a lot more about the intricacies of our cosmos in the next 10 to 15 years. But as the Hooker and Hale telescopes showed, we may also have a new batch of mysteries to try to figure out.

Editor’s Note 12/7/2020: Following its renaming after the original text of this story was published, references to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) have been updated to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the Simonyi Survey Telescope.


Sep 25, 2016
What’s really out there? In September 2016, China unveiled the world’s largest telescope – an instrument engineered so finely it is 3 times more sensitive than Arecibo and may help in the international search for understanding more on the origin of the universe and the Big Bang. Sadly, since filming this video, FAST’s chief engineer and scientist, Professor Nan Rendong lost his fight with cancer. Not only was Professor Nan a talented and well-respected scientist who dedicated over 20 years to the FAST project, but we found him to be a kind, intelligent and dedicated man who took the time to explain his work and the importance of it to us. The Five-Hundred-Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, known as FAST had been constructed over five years in a remote area of Guizhou province, south central China. It was built in a 45 million year old crater, unlikely to be affected by flooding and far from human interference. The 500m dish surpasses Arecibo radio telescope, built in Puerto Rico in 1963, as the world’s largest and is three times more sensitive in detecting radio waves thousands of light years away. FAST consists of 4450 individual panels and Chinese project engineers had to design a cable net of ten thousand cables to manipulate it to detect signals. FAST’s focus cabin is also unique thanks to a directional tracking system. A key mission for the telescope will be detecting pulsars, the matter that remains when a star eight times the size of the sun explodes. These pulsars rotate thousands of times per second and are the universe’s most accurate clock. Experience the construction and meet the creators of FAST: The World’s Largest Telescope. For more insights and guides to China, SUBSCRIBE to China Icons. Join in the conversation on our Facebook site Get the latest news as it happens from our Twitter page We’re also on Instagram! Follow us for exclusive behind-the-scenes photography and more. Remember to check out our official website too with our blog!

O’Brien expects that China will periodically allow astronomers from outside the country to use the telescope.Europe’s Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network, where we link radio telescopes across continents to create a telescope with an effective diameter the size of the planet, already incorporates radio telescopes in China, and we expect FAST to take part in these observations.”  SOURCE

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Thousands of people moved to let China build and protect the world’s largest telescope. And then the government drew in orders of magnitude more tourists, potentially undercutting its own science in an attempt to promote it.
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The Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, the world’s largest, was completed in 2016.LIU XU/XINHUA/GETTY IMAGES

Stierwalt was a little drunk, a lot full, even more tired. The nighttime scene felt surreal. But then again, even a sober, well-rested person might struggle to make sense of this cosmos-themed, touristy confection of a metropolis.

On the group’s walk around town that night, they seemed to traverse the ever-expanding universe. Light from a Saturn-shaped lamp crested and receded, its rings locked into support pillars that appeared to make it levitate. Stierwalt stepped onto a sidewalk, and its panels lit up beneath her feet, leaving a trail of lights behind her like the tail of a meteor. Someone had even brought constellations down to Earth, linking together lights in the ground to match the patterns in the sky. (Sympathetic Magic at its most basic)

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The tourist town, about 10 miles from the telescope, lights up at night.CREDIT INTENTIONALLY WITHHELD

The day before, Stierwalt had traveled from Southern California to Pingtang Astronomy Town for a conference hosted by scientists from the world’s largest telescope. It was a new designation: China’s Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, had been completed just a year before, in September 2016. Wandering, tipsy, around this shrine to the stars, the 40 or so other foreign astronomers had come to China to collaborate on the superlative-snatching instrument.  (Wake up people, this is all ritual magic.  As above so below and as below so above.  They are creating images in the sky to fool you.)

For now, though, they wouldn’t get to see the telescope itself, nestled in a natural enclosure called a karst depression about 10 miles away. First things first: the golf ball.

As the group got closer, they saw a red carpet unrolled into the entrance of the giant white orb, guarded by iridescent dragons on an inflatable arch. Inside, they buckled up in rows of molded yellow plastic chairs. The lights dimmed. It was an IMAX movie—a cartoon, with an animated narrator. Not the likeness of a person but … what was it? A soup bowl?

No, Stierwalt realized. It was a clip-art version of the gargantuan telescope itself. Small cartoon FAST flew around big cartoon FAST, describing the monumental feat of engineering just over yonder: a giant geodesic dome shaped out of 4,450 triangular panels, above which receivers collect radio waves from astronomical objects.

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FAST’s dish, nestled into a depression, is made of thousands of triangular panels.VCG/GETTY IMAGES

China spent $180 million to create the telescope, which officials have repeatedly said will make the country the global leader in radio astronomy. But the local government also spent several times that on this nearby Astronomy Town—hotels, housing, a vineyard, a museum, a playground, classy restaurants, all those themed light fixtures. The government hopes that promoting their scope in this way will encourage tourists and new residents to gravitate to the historically poor Guizhou province.

It is, in some sense, an experiment into whether this type of science and economic development can coexist. Which is strange, because normally, they purposefully don’t.

The point of radio telescopes is to sense radio waves from space—gas clouds, galaxies, quasars. By the time those celestial objects’ emissions reach Earth, they’ve dimmed to near-nothingness, so astronomers build these gigantic dishes to pick up the faint signals. But their size makes them particularly sensitive to all radio waves, including those from cell phones, satellites, radar systems, spark plugs, microwaves, Wi-Fi, short circuits, and basically anything else that uses electricity or communicates. Protection against radio-frequency interference, or RFI, is why scientists put their radio telescopes in remote locations: the mountains of West Virginia, the deserts of Chile, the way-outback of Australia.

FAST’s site used to be remote like that. The country even forcibly relocated thousands of villagers who lived nearby, so their modern trappings wouldn’t interfere with the new prized instrument.

But then, paradoxically, the government built—just a few miles from the displaced villagers’ demolished houses—this astronomy town. It also plans to increase the permanent population by hundreds of thousands. That’s a lot of cell phones, each of which persistently emits radio waves with around 1 watt of power.

By the time certain deep-space emissions reach Earth, their power often comes with 24+ zeroes in front: 0.0000000000000000000000001 watts.

FAST HAS BEEN in the making for a long time. In the early 2000s, China angled to host the Square Kilometre Array, a collection of coordinated radio antennas whose dishes would be scattered over thousands of miles. But in 2006, the international SKA committee dismissed China, and then chose to set up its distributed mondo-telescope in South Africa and Australia instead.

Undeterred, Chinese astronomers set out to build their own powerful instrument.

In 2007, China’s National Development and Reform Commission allocated $90 million for the project, with $90 million more streaming in from other agencies. Four years later, construction began in one of China’s poorest regions, in the karst hills of the southwestern part of the country. They do things fast in China: The team finished the telescope in just five years. In September 2016, FAST received its “first light,” from a pulsar 1,351 light-years away, during its official opening.

A year later, Stierwalt and the other visiting scientists arrived in Pingtang, and after an evening of touring Astronomy Town, they got down to business.

See, FAST’s opening had been more ceremony than science (the commissioning phase is officially scheduled to end by September 2019). It was still far from fully operational—engineers are still trying to perfect, for instance, the motors that push and pull its surface into shape, allowing it to point and focus correctly. And the relatively new crop of radio astronomers running the telescope were hungry for advice about how to run such a massive research instrument.

The visiting astronomers had worked with telescopes that have contributed to understanding of hydrogen emissions, pulsars, powerful bursts, and distant galaxies. But they weren’t just subject experts: Many were logistical wizards, having worked on multiple instruments and large surveys, and with substantial and dispersed teams. Stierwalt studies interacting dwarf galaxies, and while she’s a staff scientist at Caltech/IPAC, she uses telescopes all over. “Each gives a different piece of the puzzle,” she says. Optical telescopes show the stars. Infrared instruments reveal dust and older stars. X-ray observatories pick out black holes. And single-dish radio telescopes like FAST see the bigger picture: They can map out the gas inside of and surrounding galaxies.

So at the Radio Astronomy Conference, Stierwalt and the other visitors shared how FAST could benefit from their instruments, and vice versa, and talked about how to run big projects. That work had begun even before the participants arrived. “Prior to the meeting, I traveled extensively all over the world to personally meet with the leaders of previous large surveys,” says Marko Krčo, a research fellow who’s been working for the Chinese Academy of Sciences since the summer of 2016.

He asked the meeting’s speakers, some of those same leaders, to talk about what had gone wrong in their own surveys, and how the interpersonal end had functioned. “How did you organize yourselves?” he says. “How did you work together? How did you communicate?”

That kind of feedback would be especially important for FAST to accomplish one of its first, appropriately lofty goals: helping astronomers collect signals from many sides of the universe, all at once. They’d call it the Commensal Radio Astronomy FAST Survey, or CRAFTS.  (apropos.  Craft is indeed the right word.)

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Above the dish, engineers have suspended instruments that collect cosmic radio waves.FEATURE CHINA/BARCROFT MEDIA/GETTY IMAGES

Most radio astronomical surveys have a single job: Map gas. Find pulsars. Discover galaxies. They do that by collecting signals in a receiver suspended over the dish of a radio telescope, engineered to capture a certain range of frequencies from the cosmos. Normally, the different astronomer factions don’t use that receiver at the same time, because they each take their data differently. But CRAFTS aims to be the first survey that simultaneously collects data for such a broad spectrum of scientists—without having to pause to reconfigure its single receiver.

CRAFTS has a receiver that looks for signals from 1.04 gigahertz to 1.45 gigahertz, about 10 times higher than your FM radio. Within that range, as part of CRAFTS, scientists could simultaneously look for gas inside and beyond the galaxy, scan for pulsars, watch for mysterious “fast radio bursts,” make detailed maps, and maybe even search for ET. “That sounds straightforward,” says Stierwalt. “Point the telescope. Collect the data. Mine the data.”

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Engineers from FAST and the Australian science agency install the telescope’s CRAFTS receiver.MARKO KRČO

But it’s not easy. Pulsar astronomers want quicktime samples at a wide range of frequencies; hydrogen studiers, meanwhile, don’t need data chunks as often, but they care deeply about the granular frequency details. On top of that, each group adjusts the observations, calibrating them, kind of like you’d make sure your speedometer reads 45 mph when you’re going 45. And they use different kinds of adjustments.

When we spoke, Krčo had just returned from a trip to Green Bank, where he was testing whether they could set everyone’s speedometer correctly. “I think it will be one of the big sort of legacies of FAST,” says Krčo. And it’s especially important since the National Science Foundation has recently cratered funding to both Arecibo and Green Bank observatories, the United States’ most significant single-dish radio telescopes. While they remain open, they have to seek private project money, meaning chunks of time are no longer available for astronomers’ proposals. Adding hours, on a different continent, helps everybody.

At the end of the conference in Pingtang County, Krčo and his colleagues presented a concrete plan for CRAFTS, giving all the visitors a chance to approve the proposed design. “Each group could raise any red flags, if necessary, regarding their individual science goals or suggest modifications,” says Krčo.

In addition to the CRAFTS receiver, Krčo says they’ll add six more, sensitive to different frequencies. Together, they will detect radio waves from 70 megahertz to 3 gigahertz. He says they’ll find thousands of new pulsars (as of July 2018, they had already found more than 40), and do detailed studies of hydrogen inside the galaxy and in the wider universe, among numerous other worthy scientific goals.

“There’s just a hell of a lot of work to do to get there,” says Krčo. “But we’re doing it.”

For FAST to fulfill its potential, though, Krčo and his colleagues won’t just have to solve engineering problems: They’ll also have to deal with the problems that engineering created.

DURING THE FOUR-DAY Radio Astronomy Forum, Stierwalt and the other astronomers did, finally, get to see the actual telescope, taking a bus up a tight, tortuous road through the karst between town and telescope.

As soon as they arrived on site, they were instructed to shut down their phones to protect the instrument from the radio frequency interference. But not even these astronomers, who want pristine FAST data for themselves, could resist pressing that capture button. “Our sweet, sweet tour guide continually reminded us to please turn off our phones,” says Stierwalt, “but we all kept taking pictures and sneaking them out because no one really seemed to care.” Come on: It’s the world’s largest telescope.

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Devices like cell phones interfere with the telescope’s sensitive operations.LIU XU/XINHUA/GETTY IMAGES

Maybe their minder stayed lax because a burst here or there wouldn’t make much of a difference in those early days. The number of regular tourists allowed at the site all day is capped at 3,000, to limit RFI, and they have to put their phones in lockers before they go see the dish. Krčo says the site bumps up against the visitor limit most days.

But tourism and development are complicated for a sensitive scientific instrument. Within three miles of the telescope, the government passed legislation establishing a “radio-quiet zone,” where RFI-emitting devices are severely restricted. No one (not cellular providers or radio broadcasters) can get a transmitting license, and people entering the facility itself will have their electronics confiscated. “No one lives inside the zone, and the area is not open to the general public,” says Krčo, although some with commercial interests, like local farmers, can enter the zone with special permission. The government relocated villagers who lived within that protected area with promises of repayment in cash, housing, and jobs in tourism and FAST support services. (Though a 2016 report in Agence France-Presse revealed that up to 500 relocated families were suing the Pingtang government, alleging “land grabs without compensation, forced demolitions and unlawful detentions.”)

The country’s Civil Aviation Administration has also adjusted air travel, setting up two restricted flight zones near the scope, canceling two routes, and adding or adjusting three others. “We can still see some RFI from aircraft navigational beacons,” says Krčo. “It’s much less, though, compared to what it’d look like without the adjusted air routes. It’d be impossible to fully clear a large enough air space to create a completely quiet sky.”

None of the invisible boundaries, after all, function like force fields. RFI that originates from beyond can pass right on through. At least at the five-star tourist hotel, around 10 miles away, there’s Wi-Fi. The tour center, says an American pulsar astronomer, has a direct line of sight to the telescope.

When Krčo first arrived on the job, he stayed in the astronomy town. “Every morning, we were counting all the new buildings springing up overnight,” Krčo says. “It would be half a dozen.”

One day, he woke up to a new five-story structure out his window. Couldn’t be, he thought. But he checked a picture he’d taken the day before, and, sure enough, there had been no building in that spot.

The corn close to town was covered in construction dust. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my whole life,” says Krčo. Today, though, the corn is gone, covered instead in hotels, museums, and shopping centers.

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Before FAST, few large structures existed in this part of China.FEATURE CHINA/BARCROFT MEDIA/GETTY IMAGES
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At a press conference in March 2017, Guizhou’s governor declared that the province would build 10,000 kilometers of new highway by 2020, in addition to completing 17 airports and 4,000 kilometers of high-speed train lines. That’s partly to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of people the province expects to relocate here permanently, as well as the tourists. While just those 3,000 people per day will get to visit the telescope itself, there’s no cap on how many can sojourn in Astronomy Town; the deputy director of Guizhou’s reform and development commission, according to China Daily, said it would be “a main astronomical tourism zone worldwide.” “The town has grown incredibly over the last couple of years due to tourism development,” says Krčo. “This has impacted our RFI environment, but not yet to a point where it is unmanageable.”

Krčo says that geography protects FAST against much of that human interference. “There are a great many mountains between the telescope and the town,” says Krčo. The land blocks the waves, which you’ve seen yourself if you’ve ever tried to pick up NPR in a canyon. But even though the waves can’t go directly into the telescope, Krčo says the team still sees their echoes, reflections beamed down from the atmosphere.

“People at the visitors’ center have been using cameras and whatnot, and we can see the RFI from that,” he said last November (enforcement seems to have ramped up since then). “During the daytime,” he adds, “our RFI is much worse than nighttime,” largely due to engineers working onsite (that should improve once commissioning is over). But the tourist traps aren’t run and weren’t developed by FAST staff but by various governmental arms—so FAST, really, has no control over what they do.

The global radio astronomy community has concerns. “I’m absolutely sure that if people are going to bring their toys, then there’s going to be RFI,” says Carla Beaudet, an RFI engineer at Green Bank Observatory, who spends her career trying to help humans see the radio sky despite themselves. Green Bank itself sits in the middle of a strict radio protection zone with a radius of 10 miles, in which there’s no Wi-Fi or even microwaves.

There are other ways of dealing with RFI—and Krčo says FAST has a permanent team of engineers dedicated to dealing with interference. One solution, which can pick up the strongest contamination, is a small antenna mounted to one of FAST’s support towers. “The idea is that it will observe the same RFI as the big dish,” says Krčo. “Then, in principle, we can remove the RFI from the data in real time.”

At other telescopes, astronomers are developing machine-learning algorithms that could identify, extract, and compensate for dirty data. All telescopes, after all, have human contamination, even the ones without malls next door. You can’t stop a communications satellite from passing overhead, or a radar beam from bouncing the wrong way across the mountains. And while you can decide not to build a tourist town in the first place, you probably can’t stop a tidal wave of construction once it’s crested.

IN THEIR FREE evenings at the Radio Astronomy Forum, Stierwalt and the other astronomers wandered through the development. Across from their luxury hotel, workers were constructing a huge mall. It was just scaffolding then, but sparks flew from tools every night. “So the joke was, ‘I wonder if we’ll be able to go shopping at the mall by the end of our trip,’” says Stierwalt.

At the end of the conference, Stierwalt rode a bus back to the airport, awed by what she’d seen. The karst hills, dipping and rising out the window, looked like those in Puerto Rico, where she had used the 300-meter Arecibo telescope for weeks at a time during her graduate research.

When she tried to check in for her flight, she didn’t know where to go, what to do. An agent wrote her passport number down wrong.

A young Chinese man, an astronomer, saw her struggle and approached her. “I’m on your flight,” he said, “and I’ll make sure you get on it.”

In line after line, they started talking about other things—life, science. “I was describing the astronomy landscape for me,” she says. Never enough jobs, never enough research money, necessary competition with your friends. “For him, it’s very different.”

He lives in a country that wants to accrete a community of radio astronomers, not winnow one down. A country that wants to support (and promote) ambitious telescopes, rather than defund the ones it has. China isn’t just trying to build a tourist economy around its telescope—it’s also trying to build a scientific culture around radio astronomy.

That latter part seems like a safe bet. But the first is still uncertain. So is how the tourist economy will affect—for better or worse—FAST’s scientific payoff. “Much like their CRAFTS survey is trying to make everyone happy—all the different kinds of radio astronomers—this will be a true test of ‘Can you make everyone happy?’” says Stierwalt. “Can you make a prosperous astronomy town right next to a telescope that doesn’t want you to be using your phone or your microwave?”

Right now, nobody knows. But if the speed of everything else in Guizhou is any indication, we’ll all find out fast.


South China Morning Post
Dec 17, 2020
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China now holds the world’s last giant, single-dish telescope after the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope collapsed

Photo taken on Sept. 24, 2016 shows the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope in Pingtang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. The FAST, world's largest radio telescope, measuring 500 meters in diameter, was completed and put into use.
China’s 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST).  Xinhua/Liu Xu via Getty Images
  • China’s Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is the largest and last remaining giant, single-dish telescope after Arecibo’s collapse.
  • As China’s moon mission advances, experts say the via its resolution and sensitivity, the FAST telescope will help produce critical research over the next decades.
  • Opened in 2016, in November, Chinese state media reported that FAST could welcome foreign scientists in 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After tragedy struck the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, the scientific community mourned the loss of an astronomical landmark.

There is now only one last remaining giant, single-dish, radio telescope in the world: China’s 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST).

Completed in 2016 and located in the Guizhou province of southwest China, the observatory cost $171 million and took about half a decade to build. Its sheer size allows it to detect faint radio-waves from pulsars and materials in galaxies far away; 300 of its 500-meter diameter can be used at any one time.

Experts say that in the next decade, FAST is expected to shine in terms of studying the origins of supermassive black holes or identifying faint radio waves to understand the characteristics of planets outside the solar system.

In November, Chinese state media reported that in 2021, the FAST facility would become open to use for foreign scientists.

The National Astronomical Observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which oversees FAST, did not immediately respond to comment.

Before and after shots of the Arecibo telescope
NAIC Arecibo Observatory/NSF, Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

There were some functions that Arecibo’s telescope could do that FAST can’t, however.

“For observation within the solar system, Arecibo was able to transmit signals and receive their reflections from planets, a function that FAST isn’t able to complete on its own. The feature allowed Arecibo to facilitate monitoring of near-Earth asteroids, which is important in defending the Earth from space threats,” Liu Boyang, a researcher in radio astronomy at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, University of Western Australia, told the South China Morning Post.

As Business Insider reported earlier in the week, China has made significant strides within the space race as the US has suffered a setback.

China’s Chang’e-5 probe landed on the moon this week, collected lunar samples and the samples have made it back to its orbiter, which will start the process of a weeks-long journey back to earth to deliver the samples.Today, Chinese state media and NASA shared images of China planting its flag on the moon.