July 27, 2016 12:37 AM EDT

A Chinese telescope has collected data on more than 7 million stars to compile the world’s largest database on cosmic states of motion, mass, temperature and chemical composition.

The Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) has been in operation since 2012, and is the world’s first large-area telescope capable of observing 4,000 stars at any one time.

Situated in China’s northern Hebei Province near Beijing, the telescope has been credited for several breakthroughs in astronomy, including the 2014 discovery of a hypervelocity star — those that travel quick enough to escape a galaxy’s gravity.

Otherwise known as the Guo Shoujing telescope, in honor of a 13th-century Chinese astronomer, it is also helping to refine calculations of the mass of “dark matter,” deemed critical in the theoretical study of the universe.

“Data are paramount for astronomical studies,” Liu Chao, a researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told China’s state news wire Xinhua.

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Write to Charlie Campbell at charlie.campbell@time.com.

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