China Sky Eye: Leading the world in radio astronomy for 20 years

  "Thirteenth Five-Year" Achievement Tour

  Our reporter He Xinghui

  What made China go from being far behind in the field of radio astronomy to leading the world for 20 years?

It is the Chinese Sky Eye.

Located in Dawodang, Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, it is currently the world's largest single-aperture and most sensitive radio telescope, and a proper heavy weapon of the country.

  It can detect up to 13.7 billion light-years away, and the sensitivity is 10 times higher than that of Germany and three times higher than that of the United States. Even "you can hear clearly when you make a phone call on the moon."

In order to create this "cauldron", astronomer Nan Rendong exhausted all his efforts.

In the end, China Tianyan opened his "eyes", but he closed his eyes forever.

  The good news is that, whether it was during the commissioning period or officially put into operation, the performance of China SkyEye did not disappoint.

Nowadays, more and more scientists are taking care of the Chinese Sky Eye, making its performance more and more eye-catching.

  A man and his 22 years

  "Others have their own big equipment, we don't have it, I really want to try it." Nan Rendong said this in 1993.

That year, the Chinese radio telescope had a caliber of only 25 meters. As early as 1963, the United States already had a 350-meter Arecibo radio telescope.

  With this simple idea, Nan Rendong and his team have embarked on a long journey since 1994.

What they want to build is the largest radio telescope in the world.

  This was considered an impossible task at the time.

From the beginning of the site selection, just like the upgrade of monsters, Nan Rendong has overcome one difficulty after another.

In the end, in Pingtang, Guizhou, Nanrendong found a unique site on earth that is most suitable for building a radio telescope.

  This is selected from thousands of candidate depressions across the country, which can be described as one in a million.

It only took 13 years for Nanrendong to select the site and research.

  It is difficult to select a site, to establish a project, and to construct a project.

Nan Rendonghe team has solved one problem after another, and these problems have almost no experience in the world to learn from, so they can only immerse themselves in technical research.

  "If it fails, how can I explain it? I owe the country and the folks, do I have a way out?" Nan Rendong, who has no way out, put his mind on the construction site of China Tianyan.

  On September 25, 2016, China Sky Eye was completed.

Nan Rendong used 22 years of his life to build a great power.

On September 15, 2017, he closed his eyes forever.

It's really "Ten years ago to sharpen a sword, and today there are 20 years to cast the eye".

  224 pulsars and 5000 working hours

  After entering the commissioning period, China Skyeye performed amazingly.

  Under normal circumstances, the international traditional large-scale radio telescope debugging cycle is no less than 4 years, but China SkyEye completed the debugging task ahead of schedule, the overall performance is stable and reliable, and a number of valuable scientific results have been achieved during the debugging stage.

Among them, 146 high-quality pulsar candidates were detected (102 were certified), the highest precision pulsar timing observation in the world was realized, and a new repetitive fast radio burst was found. These results are the use of pulsars for timing Array detection of low-frequency gravitational waves provides important conditions.

At the same time, China's Sky Eye also achieved polarization calibration and used innovative methods to detect the interstellar magnetic field of the Milky Way.

  It is precisely because the main performance indicators have reached the international leading level, in January this year, China SkyEye passed the national acceptance and was officially put into operation.

  However, shortly after it was officially put into operation, China Sky Eye was hit by the epidemic.

In order to ensure that China's SkyEye observations continue, the operation team formulated an observation plan. More than 20 scientific researchers stayed at the observation site, overcoming all the inconveniences caused by the epidemic, and some stayed for two months.

During this period, China Skyeye completed observations for more than 1,000 hours, and many observation tasks were completed ahead of schedule.

  "It has exceeded my expectations. Now we can guarantee about 20 hours of observation time per day." In response to the situation since the official operation of China Sky Eye, Chief Engineer Jiang Peng said that the observation time is an important guarantee for scientific output, and he thought it would be achieved It would take at least 3 to 5 years for 5,000 working machine hours. I didn't expect it to be done this year.

"This requires good reliability."

  As of mid-September, China's Sky Eye has discovered 224 pulsars.

In the field of detecting pulsars, China's Sky Eye has reached an absolute first-class level in the world.

  At present, China SkyEye has launched five major and priority projects, including the pulsar timing array and the drift scan multi-scientific target sky survey.

In the next three to five years, the high sensitivity of China's Sky Eye will likely make breakthroughs in the frontiers of low-frequency gravitational wave detection, the origin of fast radio bursts, and interstellar molecules.