China Finds Phone-Wielding Tourists and Telescopes Don’t Mesh

April 20, 2019

If a giant telescope observes the universe, and no one around can take a picture of it, does it really exist? The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope—located in Guizhou, China—will have to find out. New regulations, put into effect in early April, ban (among other things) cell phones, smart wearables, drones, and digital cameras within 5 kilometers of the dish and impose uncomfortably large fines on those who break the…

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The Rebirth of Radio Astronomy

September 17, 2018

In the early 1930s, Bell Labs was experimenting with making wireless transatlantic calls. The communications goliath wanted to understand the static that might crackle across the ocean, so it asked an engineer named Karl Jansky to investigate its sources. He found three: nearby thunderstorms, distant thunderstorms, and a steady hiss, coming from … somewhere. Jansky studied the hiss for a year, using a rudimentary antenna that looked like toppled scaffolding,…

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China Built the Worlds Largest Telescope. Then Came the Tourists

September 2, 2018

Credit Intentionally Withheld The day before, Stierwalt had traveled from Southern California to Pingtang Astronomy Town for a conference hosted by scientists from the world’s largest telescope. It was a new designation: China’s Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, had been completed just a year before, in September 2016. Wandering, tipsy, around this shrine to the stars, the 40 or so other foreign astronomers had come to China to…

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