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Chang'e-3 success sparks star-gazing craze

Updated: 2013-12-23 07:50
By Cheng Yingqi ( China Daily)

The success of Chinese lunar probe Chang'e-3 has created a surge of public enthusiasm for astronomy.

On Dec 14, Chang'e-3 set down on the moon, making China the third country in the world to make a soft landing with a lunar probe.

The probe carried a telescope, which scientists say can offer a unique view of the cosmos.

"It is the dream of scientists to look into space from the moon, where observation is better because the moon has no pollution," said Ouyang Ziyuan, a senior adviser for China's lunar program, in an interview before the Dec 2 launch.

"This is the first moon-based astronomical telescope. I know many countries are planning similar projects, but we were the first" to do it, he said.

In the Shanxi provincial observatory, people formed long lines at night to look at the moon and search for the Chang'e-3 landing area.

"I saw where Chang'e-3 landed, but I could not see the probe and Yutu", the six-wheeled moon rover, said Jin Yuxuan, a 7-year-old astronomy buff in Taiyuan, Shanxi's capital.

Astronomer Yan Xiaodong told local media that it was impossible to see Chang'e-3 and Yutu with the 40-cm-diameter telescope at the observatory, given that the probe and rover are 380,000 km away. But people will have fun with the observations and gain scientific knowledge from them, Yan said.

Meanwhile, three young men in Hubei province used plastic tubes to make an 80-mm-diameter astronomical telescope, with which they can see the moon's craters.

All the materials in the telescope were bought from the market, such as plastic tubes from the building-materials market and a viewfinder taken from a toy gun.

"I had seen some pictures of the moon before, but I did not feel them to be magic until I saw those craters through my own telescope. This is amazing," Yu Shifan, one of the telescope's makers, told China News Service.

The three men are planning to produce a wide-angle telescope to observe further into the space.

Another amateur astronomer, 33-year-old Chen Tao from Suzhou, Jiangsu province, started building a private observatory at the Tibet autonomous region's Ngari prefecture in late November.

Based at an altitude of 5,100 meters, the telescope will have good observation weather 300 days a year. When construction is complete, Chen will be able to control devices at the observatory via computer from his home in Suzhou.