China's largest radio telescope is now fully operational and hoping to find aliens

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China's largest radio telescope is now fully operational and hoping to find aliens
China's 'Sky Eye' is now fully operationalOu Dongqu/Xinhua


  • The world’s largest radio telescope is now fully operational.
  • Located and built in China, the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) was making discoveries even before hitting its full stride.
  • It’s also the world’s most sensitive telescope and some believe could even lead to the detection of extraterrestrial life.
China’s first told the world about its the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in 2016. It was built but still needed testing. Four eyes down the line, China’s ‘Sky Eye’ is now fully operational.

It is one of the largest and most sensitive radio telescopes in the world. Located in a natural depression in Guizhou, it cost China nearly $170 billion to set up.

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Compared to the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico, now the second-largest radio telescope in the world, FAST is 195 meters bigger and 2.5 times more sensitive.

China’s official state-run press agency, Xinhua, reports that the radio telescope is capable of receiving a maximum of 38 GB of information per second.

“FAST has expanded four times the volume of the space range that radio telescopes can effectively explore, which means that scientists can discover more unknown stars, cosmic phenomena and laws of the universe, or even detect extraterrestrial life,” Li Kejia from Peking University, told Xinhua.

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FAST was making discoveries even before it was fully operational
Scientists are hoping that FAST’s enhanced sensitivity will help them measure extremely low-frequency gravitational waves — for the first time.

Even before it was fully up and running, the telescope was fulfilling its scientific goals.

A year into testing, in August 2017, the China National Space Administration reported that FAST has detected its first pulsar — electromagnetic radiation beaming from the poles of neutron stars rotating really fast — a discovery confirmed by the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia.

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Over the next two years, FAST has been able to detect up to 102 pulsars. Xinhua points out that this is more than the total number of pulsars detected during the same time period by researchers in Europe and the US combined.

Here’s what FAST plans to do now that it’s fully up and running:

  1. Large scale hydrogen survey
  2. Pulsar observations
  3. Leading the international Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) network
  4. Detect interstellar communication signal
  5. Pulsar timing array
  6. Perform two sky surveys

See also:
It took one massive telescope 130 hours to capture tens of thousands of galaxies in a single image

A star set to explode in 2083 will be the brightest object in Earth's sky as it dies

India's new space warning system will also keep an eye out for hostile missiles
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