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China is displacing over 9,000 people to build the world’s largest radio telescope

In order to look for non-human lifeforms, Chinese officials have decided to displace human life — a lot of it. According to new reports, over 9,000 residents of Guizhou’s Pingtang and Luodian counties are being “evacuated” to make way for a giant radio telescope –the world’s largest, in fact– in hopes of detecting aliens.

The mass exodus, which was first reported by Chinese news agency Xinhua earlier this week, will involve 2,029 families (or 9,110 people), who are located within a three mile radius of the telescope. This giant structure will span 1,640 feet at its widest point, and will set the Chinese government back $184 million. Scientists hope to have the world’s largest telescope completed by September.

The residents of these towns must move because, the government says, the depopulation will allow for “a sound electromagnetic wave environment,” which is apparently a necessity for giant alien-searching tools. For their troubles, the families in question will be compensated 12,000 yuan (equivalent to around $1,800) which represents about half the average annual salary in China. Guizhou, it should be noted, represents one of China’s poorest provinces.

This search for alien life represents the latest in the modern-day space race, and Chinese researchers seems confident that if we’re ever going to find extraterrestrial beings, it’s going to be with this telescope.

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“With a larger signal receiving area and more flexibility, FAST [short for 500-meter aperture spherical telescope] will be able to scan two times more sky area than Arecibo [presently the largest operational radio telescope], with three to five times higher sensitivity,” said chief scientist with the National Astronomical Observatories Li Di in an interview with the China Daily last year.

Of course, whether there’s anything to actually find has yet to be determined.