China unveils plans for the largest optical telescope in Asia

Peking University wants to build The largest optical telescope In Asia and to bridge the gap in astronomy capabilities with the rest of the world, the project aims to Create a preliminary telescope with an opening of 19.7 ft (6 m) by 2024; The mirror will be expanded to 26.2 feet (8 meters) by 2030.

The project, called the Expanding Aperture Telescope (EAST) in English, is led by Peking University.

A statement from Peking University said the telescope “will greatly improve China’s observational capabilities in optical astronomy,” according to space.

The EAST acronym is appropriate because the facility will become the first world-class optical telescope in the Eastern Hemisphere, with today’s leading facilities in the Western Hemisphere at sites around Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the Atacama in Chile, and the Canary Islands off the coast of northwest Africa.

The first phase of the EAST project envisions building a mirror made up of 18 hexagonal mirror segments, similar to that of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, with a mirror diameter of about 19.7 feet, which is also similar to that of JWST.

But unlike the newest space telescope, which orbits about 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth at the Sun-Earth’s second Lagrangian point, EAST will be built on Saishiteng Mountain near the town of Lenghu in Qinghai Province on the Tibetan plateau, at an elevation of about 13,800 feet ( 4200 AD).

The second phase will add a ring of 18 more hexagons around the mirror, expanding it to a diameter greater than 26.2 feet by 2030.

Peking University estimates the cost of the project to be between 500-600 million yuan ($69-84 million). Qinghai News reported last month that work on the project is proceeding in an orderly manner.

Peking University notes that astronomy plays an important role in technology and social development, and that the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to scientists who discovered the black hole at the center of the Milky Way using powerful optical telescopes including the twin Keck Telescopes over Mauna Kea and the Very Large Telescope (VLT). ) in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

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