$188m Hubble-like telescope will also track weather systems

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 12:00am

Inspired by the US Hubble's successes, Chinese authorities are going ahead with plans to launch their own telescope by 2005, the Beijing Youth Daily has reported.

This new solar telescope will weigh two tonnes and have a life-span of between three and five years.

It will use a 100cm-diameter lens to shoot pictures and cost more than 200 million yuan (HK$188 million) - making it China's most expensive piece of space equipment.

According to the report, the telescope will use surveillance and forecasting to track changes in the sun's magnetism and to monitor its storms.

Built to withstand strong air currents, it will be able to track shifting weather patterns in outer space.

The president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced last April that China would launch a comparable Hubble-like telescope in 2005.

Xinhua said the telescope would survey galaxy formation, changes in the sun and climate disasters.

The National Astronomical Observatories would also build a radio telescope with a 2.3-metre diameter lens, Xinhua said.

But it was unclear whether China's solar telescope would be modelled on the Hubble or rival it. 'That's the 64-thousand-dollar question,' a spokesman at the US Embassy in Beijing said. 'We're in the dark about this.'

According to the newspaper, China may need to buy the internal processor, a key part of the telescope, and other components because China's related technology is about 20 years behind that of developed countries.

Last week, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration gave the Hubble, a US$76 million (HK$592.8 million) telescope, a new power source and a new camera to explore the origin and future of the universe, according to the Web site Space.com.