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The ReasonChina Can’t Find Anyone to Operate Its Alien-Hunting Telescope



China continues to up its game in spacesciences, including one particularly ambitious project, the world’s largestradio telescope. There’s just one problem: they can’t find anyone to operateit.


The country’s government is looking to hirea foreigner as chief scientist to oversee the telescope’s daily operation,reports the South China Morning News, and it’s even offering free housing and a$1.2 million salary to boot. But no one has been hired, presumably because ofchallenges associated with the job and the high level of requirements needed toeven apply.


The “Five-hundred-meter Aperture SphericalTelescope”, or FAST, is a $180 million, 1,600 foot-long radio telescope that’scapable of receiving radio signals from as far as 1,000 light years away; makingit a leading instrument in the search for alien life. To give you an idea ofits scale, FAST is roughly the size of 30 soccer fields.


In 2016, Breakthrough Initiatives — anorganization founded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to investigate extraterrestrials— partnered with China to get the telescope online, but despite suchhigh-profile backing, nobody has come forward to fill this managerial role.


There are probably a couple of reasons why:


It's a really, really big telescope.


Although FAST was completed last year, thechief operator would be contending with some significant technical variables.Important components, such as the signal receiver and over 4,500 moveablereflection panels on the telescope’s dish require extensive testing and calibration,according to South China Morning News. A chief operator would likely have notime for their own research, working long and irregular hours, managing thetelescope in its infant years. The project’s location may also seem less thanideal to some, as its nestled in the mountains of Guizhou, a very remote andundeveloped part of southwest China.


It’s become even more remote, in fact,because in February of 2016, the Chinese government evicted about 9,110residents within a 3.1 mile radius of the telescope, claiming they couldpotentially mess with the electromagnetic wave environment, and offering ameasly $1,822 in compensation. It was an unlikely occurrence, considering most(or possibly all) of the rural villagers wouldn’t have sophisticated technologyat their disposal to actually do that. But anyway…


The candidate requirements are intense,too. The winning applicant must have 20 years of experience and must have helda leading role on a large-scale radio telescope project — because there are somany of those. The job also requires the successful applicant to have held aprofessorship or equally senior role at a highly respected research instituteor university. Wang Tinggui, a professor of astrophysics at the University ofScience and Technology of China told South China Morning News that it’s a tallorder.


“These requirements are very high. It puts most astronomers out ofthe race. I may be able to count those qualified with my fingers.” he said


“It is not a job for a scientist. It’s for a superhero.”