China's FAST Is The World's Largest Radio Telescope
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China has joined the hunt for extraterrestrial life in a massive way. In July 2016, construction on the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, called FAST for short, was completed. The structure is the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world. According to China's state broadcaster CCTV, the mission for the telescope that is nearly 1km in diameter is to "search for intelligent life from outer space" and look out for pulsars that sit more than 1,000 light-years deep into space.This enormous telescope cost about $185 million, sits 140 meters deep, has a 1.6-km circumference, and is made up of nearly 4,500 panels. FAST is located in China's Guizhou province in the southwest region of the country, where it will be protected from electromagnetic disruption. Check out the videos below to learn more and FAST and other impressive telescopes.
The MeerKAT Telescope Discovered 1,000+ Galaxies On Its First Test Run
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In July 2016, the MeerKAT radio telescope array showed astronomers an image full of previously unknown galaxies. The patch of sky it focused on covered less than 0.01% of the entire celestial sphere, but even so, the array detected more than 1,300 galaxies -- roughly 1,230 more than astronomers knew existed in that location. What's more impressive is that MeerKAT wasn't even fully built. It achieved this scientific milestone using only 16 of the 64 total dishes planned for the project. The final array will cover around a half mile, but the potential for discovery gets even more grand once that telescope joins with others in Australia to create the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which could boost our discovery power by 10,000 times. With that kind of potential, there's no knowing what new discoveries about galaxies, pulsars, and dark energy we could make. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.
Key Facts to Know
When the MEERKat project is done, it will have 64 satellite dishes spread over half a mile. 0:00
The telescopes work by converting what they read in radio waves to a digital image. 0:35
Another group will be built in Australia, with a total goal of 3,000 dishes, giving the project the discovery potential of 10,000 times what we currently have. 0:43
NASA's Starshade is a Massive Umbrella that Blocks Starlight
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Astronomers predict that there's at least one planet orbiting every star we see in the sky, and although we've found thousands of them, we have very few images to show for it. The stars these planets orbit are often billions of times brighter than the light the planets reflect, making it nearly impossible to make them out with even our most powerful telescopes. NASA's solution to this will sound familiar to most of us: block the light of the star, just like you would block the sun with your hand to see an object in the sky. To this end, engineers are developing a starshade that measures tens of meters across and flies independently thousands of meters away from its telescope. The shade has flower-shaped petals that minimize the bending of light for a darker shadow and clearer images. To make it easier to launch from Earth, ancient principles of origami helped NASA engineers fold the shade in a way that makes it easy to unfurl when it gets to space.
Key Facts to Know
Many stars are billions of times brighter than the light reflecting off of the planets around them. If you can block the star's light, you can study the planets in more detail. 0:11
NASA's starshade is the size of a baseball diamond, and is designed to fly tens of thousands of miles away from its telescope. 1:10
The size of a pinhead, the coronagraph fits on the telescope itself to block out only the light of the star. 2:31
The Amazing Discoveries Aided By The Hubble Space Telescope
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Since the Hubble Space Telescope has launched into orbit in 1990, it has taught us many things about the universe we live in. Scientists claim it has shown us things scientists had never even dreamed of seeing. Among its many achievements, Hubble has helped scientists know the age of the universe, see "baby photos" of the universe, realize that the expansion of the universe is increasing in speed, see the Pluto has more moons than we originally anticipated, and much more. In October of 2018, the 100-times more powerful James Webb Space Telescope will continue Hubble's mission and hopefully capture even more information about the universe.
The Incredible Power Of The James Webb Space Telescope
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We're about to be able to see further into the past than humanity has ever seen before. The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and it will be a hundred-times more powerful and three-times larger in size than the Hubble. This new telescope will be able to look out to the edge of the universe, and even study every phase of the history of the universe-even the ability to see the first luminous glows after the Big Bang.The Webb is slated for launch in October of 2018.