China’s New Wide Field Survey Telescope Begins Operations
The Mozi, China’s latest Wide Field Survey Telescope (WFST), has officially commenced its operations. The telescope has chosen the Andromeda Galaxy, which is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way, as its target for testing its state-of-the-art instruments.
A Remarkable Observatory
Situated at the Purple Mountain Observatory in Qinghai province, next to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Mozi is currently the largest telescope of its kind. With a diameter of 2.5 meters, it is positioned 4,200 meters above sea level in a desert landscape, ensuring minimal interference from light for accurate measurements.
A Captivating Image
To capture the first image using the Mozi, the team in charge had to combine 150 photographs taken over several nights of continuous observation of the Andromeda Galaxy. The WFST’s exceptional ability to capture light from vast areas of the sky allowed for a more accurate portrayal of the galaxy, which has always posed challenges for astronomers. Due to its large diameter of 220 thousand light years and its proximity to the Milky Way, just 2.5 million light years away, capturing the Andromeda Galaxy in its entirety with ground-based telescopes has proven difficult.
Unveiling the Mysteries of the Sky
Chinese authorities have high hopes for the Mozi telescope, aiming to observe the northern hemisphere’s sky every three nights. With continuous monitoring, scientists in China will be able to detect dynamic astronomical events and expand their understanding of the cosmos in the coming decades. Additionally, the telescope is expected to evolve into a space surveillance and early warning system for potential meteorite impacts within Chinese territory.
A Tribute to Chinese Culture
The telescope’s nickname, “Mozi,” pays homage to the renowned Chinese philosopher Mozi, who lived in the 5th century BC. Mozi founded the school of Moism, a philosophical movement that rivaled Confucianism and Taoism. The school promoted values such as mutual love, pacifism, and strict utilitarianism.
The Asian country’s lunar program aims to establish a research center on the surface of the satellite.
Asia’s Largest Space Observation Center
The Mozi telescope is located in the village of Lenghu, northern China, but it is not the only significant observatory in the area. According to the news agency Xinhua, plans are underway to construct 30 telescopes with various capabilities in the surrounding mountains. China’s objective is to transform this region into the largest astronomical observation base in Asia. The project, initiated in 2017, has already seen the completion of 12 complexes.
In addition to the desert network of telescopes, China is also involved in three other major space observation projects. The first project consists of a network of 313 radio antennas distributed in a circumference of 3.14 kilometers, designed to detect emissions from the Sun. The second project is the FAST radio telescope, boasting a diameter of 500 meters, primarily dedicated to the search for signs of extraterrestrial life. Lastly, China is working on launching the Xuntian space telescope, which will compete with other next-generation observatories like the James Webb. The Xuntian telescope will focus on collecting data to unravel one of the greatest cosmological mysteries of our time: the expansion of the universe and its underlying causes.