China has to decide about the future of the world’s largest radio telescope, it’s an unexpected dilemma

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The unusually large dish in an isolated area of Guizhou province needs radio silence to hone in on potential signs of alien life and distant pulsars, but researchers fear that a huge influx of tourists could be rendering the ¥CN1.2 billion ($228 million) dish useless. Tourism officials estimate that 10 million tourists will visit the the highly-sensitive device this year. “That will be as many as the tourists to the Great Wall in Beijing,” the official announced. And that means money, this is good.

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However, optimal work of installations and tourism are not possible both at the same time. Big dilemma ! The device listens for faint signals that other equipment can’t pick up, such as signature gravitational waves  from magnetized stars that disturb radio signals. In addition to the always intriguing possibility of picking up signs of extraterrestrial life, researchers hope to better understand the makeup and origins of the Universe. This, or money produced from tourism, is the question ? To avoid electromagnetic interference, an advanced radio telescope has to be built as far from civilization as possible. China chosed a remote location and relocated about 9000 residents. However, locals have built 46 hotels and more than 100 restaurants to serve the influx of tourists. A nearby theme park is getting 10 times the number of visits it was designed to handle. The daily operation of FAST costs 400,000 yuan, about $76,000. On the other part, about $874 million) was brought to the area through tourism this year. Authorities are going to have to determine whether the economic benefits outweigh the possibility of listening to the stars that are over 13.7 billion light-years away.

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