If we say “large white dish receiving information from space” and you think “pub with a dodgy satellite that receives cheap Premier League games”, then it’s time to think a little bigger.
China has made no secret of its desire to be a global superpower and, as yet another signal of its intent, it has begun construction on the world’s largest radio telescope. The Aperture Spherical radio telescope in the southern Guizhou province will be 500 metres across and (dredging the formula from the recesses of our mind) 1,570m around.
But this isn’t mere size-conscious posturing. Every one of the telescope’s 196,250sq m will be used to process data faster than any of its rivals and penetrate three times deeper into space than its closest challenger, currently the 305m-across Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
When it’s completed in 2016, the telescope will consist of 4,400 triangular aluminium panels and the spherical face will allow scientists to simultaneously detect potential Predator transmissions from more than 1,000 light years away.
So, if “we come in peace” isn’t the message that’s forthcoming, at least we have time to prepare.
Main image: World Scientific Publishing Company/Getty