The largest astronomical telescope in China has just been installed, located at the Gaogumei Astronomical Observatory in Lijiang. The RMB 30 million, 2.4-metre imaging/spectroscopic telescope has a height of eight metres and a weight of over 40 tonnes. The Lijiang site is a highly suitable place for a telescope, being over 3,000 meters above sea level and having an average of 254 clear nights annually. There is also minimal interference from artificial light and sand.
A report for the US China Economic and Security Review Commission (21 April 2005) warned that the US had seriously underestimated China’s progress in science and technology innovation:
Last week, the WTO announced that China has overtaken Japan as the world’s third largest exporter, after a 35 per cent jump in the country’s overseas sales. Surprisingly, electronic goods now account for a third of Chinese exports…
In the past few months, China has announced a new supercomputer that operates at 11 trillion calculations per second, breakthroughs in nanotechnology, manufacture of immunochips to detect staph infection, operation of a mini-space satellite, plans to launch another 100 satellites [by 2020] beyond the 70 already launched, a state of the art new [“meltdown-proof”] pebble-bed nuclear reactor technology, plans to build 40 nuclear reactors [the US has built none since 1970], a Chinese-designed Pentium-style computer chip [the Godson II, equivalent to a Pentium III], a doubling of factory production of robots, design of a new satellite launch vehicle capable of orbiting 25 tons, successful use of cloning cell technology to produce a buffalo [10 April 2004], opening of semiconductor design centers, progress by the Institute of High Energy Physics on a electron positron collider, support of a superior conducting collider in Germany, partnering with the EU to enable the Gallileo global positioning system, and a state of the art planned astronomical observation program…
This astronomical observation program includes the Lijiang observatory, as well as:
A “giant eye” that can simultaneously monitor 4,000 celestial bodies. It will become the telescope that has the highest spectrum acquiring rate in the world.
China’s first telescope will be launched into space – telescopes in space don’t have the problem of atmospheric interference, described in a People’s Daily article as “admiring the flowers while it is foggy”.
A radio telescope, described as a “heavenly eye”, that is hoped will receive signals sent out by an “extraterrestrial civilization”. Currently, the radio telescope with the largest diameter is an American-built 305-metre telescope. The Chinese one will be the world’s largest, so large that it can fill a whole valley with a reception area of one square kilometre.
A 1-metre infrared vacuum solar tower will be built on the northeast bank of Fuxian Lake.
China’s Progress in Technological Competitiveness – The Need for a New Assessment by Dr Michael Pillsbury pdf
Introduction of the National Astronomical Observatories and their Activities by Gang Zhao pdf
People’s Daily articles:
China’s largest astronomical telescope settled in Lijiang
Seven astronomical projects to explore space mysteries
Asia’s largest optical telescope installed in south China [photos]
Illustration by Jason Pym