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China Commissions Gigantic Telescope For 3-D Galaxy Mapping

November 5, 2008

China is employing a new telescope with a unique design which officials say will help them map the galaxy in three dimensions.

The unusual pi symbol-shaped design uses a fixed structure and two moveable, segmented mirrors rather than the dome shaped telescope that moves to follow an object in the sky.

Built by the National Astronomical Observatories, which belongs to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope, or LAMOST, cost 235 million yuan ($34.40 million), state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday.

LAMOST has an effective aperture of more than four meters and 4,000 optical fibers — the most of any telescope in the world — that can simultaneously track and decode starlight into spectrographic data.

The telescope is housed in the hills northeast of Beijing.

“We have yet to shape a clear idea about our galaxy’s structure,” Chu Yaoquan, LAMOST project scientist and an astrophysicist at the University of Science and Technology of China, told Xinhua.

“By parsing spectra of millions of stars in the Milky Way, we would have a chance to get the whole history of the galaxy.”

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