China’s US$31 million Mozzi telescope ready to train giant eye on night sky

Lu Zheng, a telescope engineer from the Purple Mountain Observatory, told CCTV that while the team is still improving its imaging quality and improving observation performance, „commissioning has already started”.

„When fully operational, [the telescope] „We can detect signals from very faint and distant celestial bodies, including galaxies and star clusters far away from the Milky Way,” he said.

China is shooting its way to the stars with Asia’s largest observatory

The dry, steady air of Mount Saishiteng creates ideal star conditions, as do the clear skies of the Hawaiian mountains and Chilean deserts. It is the only world-class astronomical observatory in the Eastern Hemisphere.

The Mozi Survey Telescope is one of more than 40 telescopes, ranging from 0.5 meters to 6.5 meters (1 ft 7 in – 21 ft 4 in) in diameter, taking shape on the mountain, with a total cost of 2.7 billion yuan (US$366 million).

It includes a one meter (3 ft) solar telescope and a multi-purpose probe array of 20 telescopes, each 70cm (27.5 ins) in diameter, which have already been completed.

In addition, Tsinghua University, Peking University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University are building general-purpose optical telescopes at the site.

With a field of view of 6.5 square degrees – 26 times the size of a full moon – the Mozi Survey Telescope can observe some of the rarest and most violent events in the universe, according to its development team.

According to a paper published in December by the peer-reviewed journal Universe, the Mossy telescope can detect tens of thousands of supernova explosions, fueled by the collapse of dying stars.

During each year of its six-year observation period, the telescope is expected to detect hundreds of tidal disruption events, where a star moves too close to a supermassive black hole and is torn apart.

The team said the findings will contribute to a better understanding of the life and death of stars and shed light on how black holes form and evolve.

Researchers also aim to better understand the dynamical evolution of the solar system. The MOSI telescope will precisely map the structure of the Milky Way and probe further regions of the universe, they said.

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In addition, the MOSI telescope will conduct multi-wavelength observations in conjunction with China’s space telescopes currently under development, including the Einstein probe and the Chinese Space Station Telescope.

The wide field of view of the Mozzi telescope was made possible by rapid advances in digital imaging technologies that began in the 1990s, with the development of charge-coupled device (CCD) sensors that break down image elements into pixels.

For a long time, since their invention about 400 years ago, binoculars were limited to very small fields of view. Their observational objectives cover only a small part of the sky, making the chances of seeing in the right place at the right time remote.

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By using a CCD that captures images by converting photons into electrons, the technology enables detection of changes in the night sky on timescales between seconds and years.

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