China to build largest optical telescope in Asia

Peking University has unveiled plans to build Asia’s largest optical telescope. In its design, it will resemble the James Webb Space Observatory (JWST).

Render of the EAST Observatory. Source: Peking University

Currently, China’s largest optical telescope is the 4-meter LAMOST. However, the Celestial Empire would like to change this and acquire a more powerful tool that will allow it to be at the forefront of astronomical research. It will be the EAST telescope (Expanding Aperture Segmented Telescope).

EAST will be built near the city of Lenghu on the Tibetan plateau at an altitude of about 4200 meters. Its construction will begin in 2024 and will be divided into two stages, which will allow observations to begin on it as soon as possible.

At the first stage (2024-2028), the builders will construct the supporting structure of the EAST and its dome. The telescope will receive a segmented mirror, structurally very similar to the main mirror of the JWST. It will consist of 18 hexagonal segments and have a diameter of six meters.

The main mirror of the EAST telescope after the first and second stages of construction. Source: Peking University

At the second stage (2028 – 2030), the EAST mirror will be expanded by adding 18 new segments along the outer contour. This will bring its diameter to eight meters. EAST will also install the latest devices — high-resolution spectrometers, polarimeters and an adaptive optics system. Peking University estimates that the total cost of building the telescope will be about 500-600 million yuan (69-84 million dollars).

You can also read our article about the most powerful ground-based observatories that will be built by 2030.

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