Asia Minute: More than 9,000 Residents of Southwestern China Make Way for Radio Telescope

Feb 16, 2016

The 64 meter radio telescope at Parkes Observatory as seen in 1969.
Credit Wikipedia Commons

The search for extra-terrestrial life is forcing thousands of earthlings to move. The developments are taking place in southwestern China—and HPR’s Bill Dorman has the details in today’s Asia Minute.

China is building the world’s largest radio telescope—and plans to have it fully operational later this year.  Just this week, officials announced that as part of the plans, more than 9,000 people are going to have to move.

A radio telescope detects radiation that shows up in the radio frequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum.  It can track satellites, space probes, and perhaps messages from extra-terrestrials.  The director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society tells China’s official Xinhua news agency that the high level of sensitivity will, quote, “Help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy.”  Last year, a scientist on the project told the Guardian the telescope can “tell meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe. It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm.”

The Chinese have been working on this $180-million dollar project for five years.  But it was only this week that authorities announced that about 9,100 locals are going to have to be moved---or as Xinhua put it, “evacuated.”  This will clear a radius of about three miles around the radio telescope, and as one official put it, “create a sound electromagnetic wave environment.”   As for the residents, some will get limited support for housing, but most will only receive the equivalent of a little less than $2,000 dollars in compensation.