The Chinese government is forcing some 9,000 villagers in the Guizhou province to leave their homes to make room for an enormous radio telescope that will be used to look for signs of alien life. The building project, which will cost an estimated $184 million, is now under construction and could be complete as early as this September. To soften the blow of being relocated, Chinese officials are offering $1,800 to each person who gives up their home within three miles of the telescope site.

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The FAST telescope, short for 500-meter (1,640 feet) aperture spherical telescope, will be the largest of its kind anywhere on Earth. Xinhua, the state news agency, revealed the plan earlier this week, saying that relocating the area’s residents will create “a sound electromagnetic wave environment” for the telescope. Situated in one of the poorest provinces in the country, the telescope will be part of China’s ambitious space exploration plans, which includes a presence on the moon and its own space station.

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The flashiest aspect of the new telescope’s work will be the search for extraterrestrial life forms, but that’s not its only function. Its main efforts will involve gathering data on other space phenomena, like pulsars, galaxies, black holes and gas clouds. According to a report by China Daily, the telescope will be comprised of 4,500 mostly triangular panels, each measuring about 36 feet on one side, which make up a giant parabolic dish. Due to its enormous size, the FAST telescope will be able to pick up signals from much farther away than the next largest telescope in China, which means, perhaps, it will be more capable of ‘hearing’ extraterrestrial signals, if there are any out there.

Via New York Times

Images via FAST