China Built A Huge Radio Telescope But There Is No One To Run It

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China Built A Huge Radio Telescope But There Is No One To Run It

China has built a huge radio telescope , Known as the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST). but they can’t find someone to run it.

About China’s Huge Radio Telescope

China opened this huge Telescope in September 2016 to study the cosmos. Among its numerous goals, it will be used to look for signals from extraterrestrial life and study black holes. Known as the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST).

Upon completion, the $178-million FAST observatory became the largest operational telescope in the world, with its dish spanning 500 meters (1,600 feet), as its name suggests. It made use of a natural sinkhole in the Guizhou region of China, although some locals had to be relocated to make way for it.

China can’t find some one to run the Telescope

Now, however, it has emerged that China can’t find someone to run the telescope. They’ve been advertising the job of chief scientist for an annual salary of $1.2 million, but there have been no takers so far. It’s reported that China was looking for a foreigner because no astronomer at home had the expertise to run the telescope.

Presuming it does run smoothly, FAST should be pretty useful. Its huge collecting power will enable it to collect radio waves from distant sources, much like the Arecibo observatory did in the US.

“Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages,” CAS Director-General Wu Xiangping said in 2015. “It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe.”

Candidates can be of any nationality

“The post is currently open to scientists working outside China only,” a human resources official at the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), which owns the telescope, told the South China Morning Post. “Candidates can be of any nationality, any race.”

For many, that could be a rather exciting opportunity. However, Ars Technica notes that there are only about 40 people in the world who could have the necessary requirements for the job. These include 20 years of experience in the field, and experience managing a large-scale radio project.


China has denied reports they have been looking for a foreigner to run the telescope, despite the seemingly verbatim quote from the HR official. In a post on Sina Weibo yesterday, as reported by the state-run Global Times, they said there was no such posting for the job, and it had been filled since July 2016. This chief scientist has not been named.

1 million dollar but no one applies

The candidate must have at least 20 years’ previous experience. He or she must have taken a leading role in large-scale radio telescope project and have plenty of managerial experience as well as holding a professorship – or equally senior position – in a world-leading research institute or university.

“These requirements are very high. It puts most astronomers out of the race. I may be able to count those qualified with my fingers,” said Wang, who was director of the academy’s laboratory of galaxy cosmology but is not involved in Fast’s management.

“Foreign astronomers of non-Chinese origin may face additional difficulties”, he added.

Some Western researchers have plenty of experience running giant telescopes, but their expertise might not work in China due to language barriers and cultural difference.

Guanxi, or interpersonal relationships, could affect decisions such as the scheduling of observation slots.

“The fight to decide who gets observation time and who doesn’t can turn the job into a walk on thin ice,” Wang said.

The operator would also face many technical uncertainties. Although the construction of Fast was completed last year, key components such as the signal receiver and thousands of movable reflection panels on the dish still require extensive testing and calibration.

The challenging nature of the work might require the chief operator to work long and irregular hours and give up his or her own research. The job will also involve living and working in one of China’s least developed areas, which might cause discomfort and inconvenience to their family.


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