The use of the WFST will greatly improve China's near-Earth object monitoring and early warning capabilities, says Lou Zheng, chief engineer of the observatory's Qinghai observation station. (REUTERS)Space 

China to Launch Most Powerful Wide-Angle Telescope This Month

According to official media reports on Tuesday, China is preparing to launch a highly advanced wide-field survey telescope, which is expected to become the most dominant sky survey telescope in the Northern Hemisphere. This telescope will assist scientists in monitoring dynamic astronomical occurrences and conducting research on time domain astronomical observations.

The telescope has been jointly developed by the University of Science and Technology of China and the Purple Mountain Observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The telescope is likely to start operating in mid-September, which will help scientists monitor dynamic astronomical events and conduct time-domain astronomical observation research, according to the observatory, Xinhua News Agency reported.

With a diameter of 2.5 meters, the Wide Field Survey Telescope (WFST) is now the largest time-domain surveying facility in the Northern Hemisphere.

“When the WFST is fully operational, we can use it to detect very faint and distant sky signals, including signals from distant galaxies and galaxy clusters outside the Milky Way,” said Lou Zheng, chief engineer of the observatory’s Qinghai Observatory.

It will be the most powerful sky research telescope in the Northern Hemisphere, said Kong Xu, the project’s chief designer at the University of Science and Technology of China.

“The use of WFST will greatly improve China’s near-Earth object tracking and early warning capabilities.”

In 2022, the telescope was nicknamed after the ancient Chinese philosopher Moz, or Micius, who is said to be the first in history to conduct optical experiments.

The construction of the telescope project started in July 2019 in the city of Lenghu, which has an average altitude of about 4,000 meters. The city is also known as China’s “Mars Camp” due to its eerily weathered desert landscape that resembles the surface of the red planet.

The Lenghu area benefits from the plateau’s clear night sky, stable atmospheric conditions, dry climate, and less artificial light pollution, meaning it could become one of the best stargazing destinations on the Eurasian continent.

As of 2020, Lenghu has attracted 11 scientific research institutes and 12 telescope projects with a total investment of 2.7 billion yuan (about $370 million).

According to the observatory, when completed, the city will become the largest base for astronomical observations in Asia.

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