China is expected to launch its flagship space telescope in late 2023, an effort to rival NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The Chinese Space Station Telescope, or Xuntian Space Telescope, meaning "survey to heavens," could provide researchers with new knowledge of "distant galaxies, mysterious dark matter and dark energy, and the past and future evolutions of the universe," according to a press release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"We have known that our universe is expanding with an acceleration and we can calculate its current expansion rate, but it's still unknown what causes the acceleration," said Li Ran, a project scientist of the CSST Scientific Data Reduction System, in the press release. "CSST observations may offer answers and unveil new physics."
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The telescope will be used by astronomers to develop sky surveys and capture images.
With a 6.6-foot-diameter lens, China's telescope will be comparable to the over 30-year-old Hubble telescope, launched in 1990. The field of view for China's telescope is expected to be 350 times larger than Hubble, which is approximately 1% of the size of a fingernail at an arm's length, giving researchers a more complete picture.
"Hubble may see a sheep, but the CSST sees thousands, all at the same resolution," Li said.
Throughout the telescope's 10-year lifetime, it is anticipated to survey 40% of the sky.
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The telescope will operate in a similar orbit to Hubble around China's first long-term space station, the Tiangong space station, set to be completed at the end of this year. It will allow the telescope to dock at the station for occasional maintenance work.
Meanwhile, NASA just launched its newest telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, at the end of last year. Webb's scientific operations are expected to begin this summer after a series of preparations, NASA announced at the end of April.