A file picture dated 07 May 2016 shows a general view on the five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) under construction in the remote Pingtang county, southwest China's Guizhou province. China on 25 September 2016 has begun operating the world's largest radio telescope.

The world's largest radio telescope - based in a lush mountainous region of southwest China's Guizhou province - began exploring space in search of extraterrestrial life on Sunday.

Hundreds of astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts witnessed the launch of the 500-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), 17 years after the model was first proposed by Chinese scientists.

The installation of the telescope's main panel, which is as large as 30 football pitches, was completed in early July, with the entire project costing nearly 1.2 billion yuan (180 million dollars), according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Construction on the telescope began in March 2011.  

In a recent trial observation, FAST received a set of high-quality electromagnetic waves sent from a pulsar about 1,351 light years away, Xinhua reported citing Qian Lei, an associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observation (NAO).

Earlier this year, authorities evacuated more than 8,000 rural residents to make way for the project, which requires radio silence within a 5-kilometre radius to ensure a sound electromagnetic wave environment.

Resettlement is ongoing, according to Xinhua, which earlier reported that each relocated resident will receive compensation of 12,000 yuan.

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