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New Tibet Observatory Nears Completion

Mar 07, 2018     Email"> PrintText Size

Observatory set to eyeball Big Bang cosmic waves 

China has almost completed building the world's highest cosmic ray telescope in Tibet's Ngari prefecture, the chief scientist told the Global Times on Tuesday.

At an altitude of 5,250 meters, the Cosmic Microwave Background polarization telescope project will start operations in 2020 and produce results the same year, said Zhang Xinmin, a senior researcher at the institute of high energy physics in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The academy program in the Southwest China autonomous region is designed to probe the primordial gravitational waves created by the first tremors of the Big Bang.

The project has two stages, explained Zhang, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, during an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

The first-stage telescope with 6,816 transition edge sensors operating at 95 Gigahertz will be replaced with a more sensitive telescope in the second stage boasting more than 20,000, he said. The world's second highest-telescope will open a new window for probing cosmic waves, making it the best gravitational wave observatory site in the northern hemisphere, he said.

The world's highest permanent observatory is the University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory in Cerro Chajnantor, Chile, at 5,640 meters.

The vast observation area involves a near-unique combination of high altitude, thin atmosphere and low moisture content, Zhang said.

China rolled out the Taiji project in 2008 and Tianqin in 2016 to probe space gravitational waves, followed the same year by the 500-meter Tianyan Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope in Guizhou to probe waves from ground-based research facilities.

China prioritized study of the origin and evolution of the universe in the country's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), Zhang said.

Before that, Zhang said, China lagged behind the world on original research due to lack of observatory facilities and equipment for cosmological experiments and study.

A satellite-based astronomical research program is awaiting governmental approval, chief scientist Zhang Shuangnan told the Global Times on Tuesday.

A satellite will be launched around 2025, and within one year results could be expected from the enhanced X-ray Timing and Polarimetry mission, Zhang said.

The mission is designed to study the state of matter under extreme conditions of density, gravity and magnetism, he explained.

More than 100 institutions in European countries including Italy, Germany, the UK and France will cooperate on the project, according to the academy's website.

Primary targets for observation include isolated and binary neutron stars, strong magnetic field systems like magnetar-neutron stars and super massive black holes.

The mission's primary goals are the determination of the equation of state of matter at supra-nuclear density, the measurement of quantum electrodynamic effects in a highly magnetized star and accretion in strong gravity. (Global Times)


(Editor: LIU Jia)


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