China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) is now completing its testing phase, and will soon be fully operational. The nation’s massive 500m wide dish, based in south west China’s Guizhou Province, is the largest in the world and could be a scientists’ best hope of finding alien life. Scientists began testing FAST in 2016, which is made up of 4,450 panels.
Since 2016, the telescope has observed 99 signals from deep space. However, these signals proved to be fast radio bursts (FRBs).
Experts are still unsure exactly what these signals are, but what they do know is that they can emit as much energy in a second than the sun does in 10,000 years.
They are exceptionally difficult to study as they can last as little as a millisecond and there is no way to predict when they are coming.
The most likely explanation is these signals original from powerful gamma ray bursts – brief, yet extreme, radioactive bursts from stars.
However, Chinese officials have now confirmed the search for aliens is set to become more proactive.
Zhu Ming, director of the scientific observation and data division at the FAST operations and development centre, explained in a recent CCTV video: “In the process of observing signals from celestial bodies, we also collect signals that might be emitted by humans or extraterrestrial intelligence.
“However, this is a huge amount of work, since most signals we see — 99 percent of them — are various noises, so we need to take our time to identify the signals we want in the noises.”
The team will also use FAST to search for gravitational waves – ripples in space-time.
Li Kejia, a researcher from the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, said: “The sensitivity of FAST is very high, so the accuracy of the data measured is very good.
“FAST has a promising future in terms of gravitational wave detection.”
Made up of 4,450 panels and with a width of 500m, the Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, dwarves Puerto Rico’s 300m-wide Arecibo Observatory – the previous record holder for largest telescope.
Experts in China will be using the vast machine to scan the universe to search for life that doesn’t reside on Earth.
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As the FAST telescope is so huge, it has the potential to detect even the weakest signals from the far-flung reaches of the universe.
At first, the £135million telescope will be used solely by Chinese scientists to find out more about the beginnings of the universe.
But the Chinese will soon open the telescope to international collaboration in the hunt for aliens.
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