Story from hundreds of millions of light years away told at FAST town in Guizhou

Story from hundreds of millions of light years away told at FAST town in Guizhou


Image Source: Li Guiyun

“Scientists made another discovery using the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST)! FAST detected an atomic gas structure 20 times larger than the Galaxy, which is so far the largest of its kind ever discovered by humans.” It’s hard to imagine that such astronomy news can be the daily topic of the people living in the small town of Kedu, deep inside the mountains of Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.

When the sign “You have entered the core area of FAST electromagnetic silent area” jumps into view, people know that they’ve entered the Kedu Town of Pingtang County of southwest China’s Guizhou.

The rise of Kedu Town took place after the establishment of FAST.

“Before the establishment of FAST, the transportation and infrastructure in Kedu Town were poor and people led a very difficult life depending totally on farming,” said Wei Zhimin, Secretary of the Party Committee of Kedu Town.

A full view of FAST

The construction of FAST brought Kedu a featured astronomy town for popularization of science, and boosted relevant research and education industries. Thus, over 20 projects were put into operation including Astronomy and Space Tower and Interactive Planetarium.

FAST, as a modern symbol of Guizhou, makes the study tour of Pingtang County based on popularization of science a representative tourism sector of Guizhou and provides a “new model” for the province in exploring integrated development of cultural tourism. Yu Yue, a guide from Guizhou Pingtang Wentian Tourism Development Co., Ltd., said “Considering the influence of FAST in scientific research, Guizhou is constructing the featured research and education system for popularization of science and promoting the popularization of technological resources. As of now in 2022, we have in total received 2,938 groups on study tours, totaling over 46,000 people.”

In the homestay run by Liu Chengliang, a resident of Kedu Town, the astronomical telescope catches the eyes of our guests. “Most of our guests come here either for their pursuit of astronomy knowledge or on study tours. Our homestays will provide them with astronomical telescope to create an atmosphere they like.”

In the peak tourism season each year, the lodging ratio of Liu’s homestay can reach over 80%. Wei Zhimin said that, “driven by featured tourism, the economy of Kedu Town is growing rapidly. People’s lives are getting better and better. Some of the FAST immigrants began to open hotels and restaurants in Kedu Town. Their income increased, and so did their happiness level.”

In Kedu Town, astronomy-related elements are everywhere and people, from the children to the elderly, can all share some knowledge about astronomy with tourists.

“My parents had told me many stories about FAST when I was young. We also have astronomy classes every week at school. During holidays, we often go to the Astronomy Town to listen to the interpretations. I want to be an astronomical scientist when I grow up and study the secrets of the universe with FAST,” said a pupil in Pingtang County.

FAST brought the historical opportunity for the popularization and education of astronomical science in Pingtang. Currently, Pingtang County has introduced popularization and teaching of astronomy in all middle and primary schools as well as kindergartens. Due to FAST, kids in the mountains began to “go outside” and explore the world. According to the statistics provided by the Education Bureau of Pingtang County, from 2016 to 2022, 6 students in Pingtang County were admitted by the major of astronomy and 720 students by the majors of ecology, geology, environment and energy. Most of them are national minorities.

FAST stares up into the universe from hundreds of millions of light years away. Knowledge about the origin of the universe and life outside the earth is in every breath of the kids in Kedu Town. Chen Libi, a scientist who once stationed in FAST expressed his hopes for the local children: “Local astronomical scientists will be cultivated here in Guizhou to serve FAST.”