Welcome To The Dark Matter Digital Network

China built the world’s largest telescope, but has no one to run it

During the second season of The Big Bang Theory, the aspiring actress Penny borrows money from Sheldon. Without a second thought, the theoretical physicist grabs a peanut brittle can in which he stores his extra money, and urges Penny to borrow as much as she wants. "This is money I'm not using," Sheldon explains. Nick Suntzeff, an astronomer at Texas A&M University, recalled this episode when asked why no astronomers had yet taken a lucrative position to run the world's largest radio telescope, in China. The job pays about $1.2 million annually. "Now, that is an exaggeration," Suntzeff said of the TV show. "But I know many astronomers who would do such a thing. They want to be paid well, yes, but the money does not buy you telescope time, or access to supercomputers, or fund postdocs and graduate students." China has built a staggeringly large instrument in the remote southern, mountainous region of the country called the Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST. The telescope measures nearly twice as large as the closest comparable facility in the world, the US-operated Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Radio telescopes use a large, parabolic dish to collect radio waves from distant sources, such as pulsars and black holes—or even alien civilizations. According to the South China Morning Post, the country is looking for a foreigner to run the observatory because no Chinese astronomer has the experience of running a facility of such size and complexity. The Chinese Academy of Sciences began advertising the position in western journals and job postings in May, but so far there have been no qualified applicants. One reason is that the requirements are fairly strict: The candidate must have at least 20 years of previous experience in the field, and he or she must have taken a leading role in large-scale radio telescope project with extensive managerial experience. The candidate must also hold a professorship, or equally senior position, in a world-class research institute or university. Only a few qualify

Read More: Ars Technica

Leave a comment