Peking University China To Build Asia’s Largest Optical Telescope
The project’s initial goal is to build a telescope with an aperture of 19.7 feet (six metres) by 2024, with the mirror expanding to 26.2 feet (8 metres) by 2030.
Peking University wishes to construct Asia’s largest optical telescope in order to close the astronomical capability gap with the rest of the world.
The project’s initial goal is to build a telescope with an aperture of 19.7 feet (six metres) by 2024, with the mirror expanding to 26.2 feet (8 metres) by 2030. Peking University is leading the project, known as the Expanding Aperture Segmented Telescope (EAST).
The telescope “will greatly improve China’s observation capabilities in optical astronomy,” according to a Peking University statement.
The abbreviation EAST is appropriate because the facility would be the first world-class optical telescope in the eastern hemisphere. The Western Hemisphere’s leading facilities are located around Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Atacama in Chile, and the Canary Islands off the coast of northwest Africa.
The first phase of the EAST project calls for the construction of a mirror composed of 18 hexagonal mirror segments, similar to the mirror used by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The mirror would be approximately 19.7 feet in diameter, similar to the JWST.
EAST, on the other hand, would be built on Saishiteng Mountain near Lenghu Town in Qinghai Province on the Tibetan plateau (opens in new tab), at an altitude of around 13,800 feet (4,200 m), as opposed to the most recent space telescope, which orbits 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth at the second sun-Earth Lagrange point.
The two phases of the mirror of China’s proposed Expanding Aperture Segmented Telescope are depicted schematically (EAST). The second phase would encircle the mirror with a ring of 18 more hexagonal segments, increasing its diameter to more than 26.2 feet by 2030.
According to Peking University, the project will cost between 500 and 600 million yuan ($69 and 84 million). Last month, Qinghai News reported that the project is moving along smoothly.
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to scientists who discovered the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way using powerful optical telescopes such as the twin Keck telescopes atop Mauna Kea and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile’s Atacama Desert, according to Peking University.
EAST would also be a fantastic addition to China’s growing astronomical capabilities. The country has built FAST, the world’s largest single-aperture radio telescope, and plans to launch Xuntian, a large space observatory, as early as late 2023.