China to relocate 10,000 people to make way for telescope

This file picture taken on July 29, 2015 shows the 500-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) under construction in Pingtang, in south-west China's Guizhou province. Image copyright AFP
Image caption The 500m telescope will dwarf the world's current largest in Puerto Rico

China is preparing to relocate nearly 10,000 people to make way for the world's largest radio telescope.

Residents will be moved from their homes in the south-western province of Guizhou to prevent interference with the telescope's electromagnetism.

The project's lead scientists told China's state news agency that the telescope would further the search for intelligent life in the universe.

It will dwarf the world's current largest such telescope in Puerto Rico.

The 500m-wide Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is due to be operational this year.

Provincial officials have vowed to relocate 9,110 residents living within five kilometres of the listening device by September, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The relocations will "create a sound electromagnetic wave environment", the news agency cited regional official Li Yuecheng as saying.

Residents will reportedly receive 12,000 yuan (£1,280; $1,800) in subsidies for their troubles, with some getting extra support for housing, it said.

FAST, built at a cost of 1.2bn yuan, will dwarf the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico as the world's largest radio telescope, which is about 300m in diameter.

Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, said the telescope's high level of sensitivity "will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy", Xinhua reported.

In the past China has relocated hundreds of thousands of people to make way for large infrastructure projects such as dams and canals. Many have complained of poor compensation.

As well as upping investment in astronomy, Beijing is accelerating its multi-billion-dollar space exploration programme, with plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020.

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