China's wide-field survey telescope to be operational

(Xinhua) 14:20, September 05, 2023

BEIJING, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- A wide-field telescope capable of surveying the entire sky from the Northern Hemisphere will soon be put into operation in northwest China's Qinghai Province, its makers said Tuesday.

Measuring 2.5 meters in diameter, the Wide Field Survey Telescope (WFST) is now the largest time-domain survey facility in the Northern Hemisphere.

It was jointly developed by the University of Science and Technology of China and the Purple Mountain Observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The telescope will likely start operation in mid-September, helping scientists monitor the dynamic astronomical events and carrying out the time domain astronomical observation research, according to the observatory.

"After the WFST becomes fully operational, we can use it to detect some very faint and distant celestial signals, including those from distant galaxies and galaxy clusters outside the Milky Way," said Lou Zheng, chief engineer of the observatory's Qinghai observation station.

It will become the most powerful sky survey telescope in the Northern Hemisphere, said Kong Xu, the project's chief designer at the University of Science and Technology of China. "The use of the WFST will greatly improve China's near-Earth object monitoring and early warning capabilities."

In 2022, the telescope was nicknamed after the ancient Chinese philosopher Mozi, or Micius, who is said to be the first in history to conduct optical experiments.

Construction of the telescope project started in July 2019 in Lenghu Town, which has an average altitude of approximately 4,000 meters. The town is also known as China's "Mars Camp" due to its eerily eroded desert landscape that resembles the surface of the red planet.

The Lenghu area has the advantages of the plateau region's clear night skies, stable atmospheric conditions, dry climate, and less artificial light pollution, meaning it has the potential to become one of the best sites for stargazing in the Eurasian continent. Since 2020, Lenghu has attracted 11 scientific research institutions and 12 telescope projects, with a total investment of 2.7 billion yuan (about 370 million U.S. dollars).

Upon completion, the town will become the largest astronomical observation base in Asia, said the observatory.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


Related Stories