Thursday, September 22, 2016

China's giant space telescope starts search for alien life

FAST (Photo : FAST)

China's "Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope" (FAST) will see "first light" on Sept. 25 and will immediately begin hunting for intelligent extraterrestrial (ET) life.
FAST is the world's largest filled aperture (single dish) radio telescope with a dish consisting of 4,450 triangular panels. FAST is also the second largest radio telescope after Russia's RATAN-600, which has a sparsely filled aperture.

FAST consists of a fixed 500 meter dish constructed in the Dawodang depression, a natural basin or "karst," in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, southwest China. Construction of FAST began in 2011 and the total project cost hit $180 million.

FAST will search for extraterrestrial life and monitor China's space program. It will also be used by Chinese scientists to uncover new secrets of physics and dark matter. The FAST website in English can be accessed here.

"FAST's potential to discover an alien civilization will be five to 10 (times) that of current equipment, as it can see farther and darker planets," said Peng Bo, director of the NAO Radio Astronomy Technology Laboratory.

Douglas Vakoch, president of METI International, an organization dedicated to detecting alien intelligence, said FAST "will be able to look faster and further than past searches for extraterrestrial intelligence."

"FAST may help explain the origin of the universe and the structure of the cosmos, but it won't provide warning of Earth-bound asteroids that could destroy human civilization," said Vakoch.
FAST's field of vision is almost twice that of the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico that's been the world's biggest single aperture radio telescope for the past 53 years.

It's expected to shine a brighter light on the origins of the universe by mapping the distribution of hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe. FAST will also allow scientists to detect many more pulsars, which are dense, rotating stars that act as cosmic clocks.

This could give scientists with the capability to detect gravitational waves -- ripples in spacetime -- that shed light on how galaxies evolved.

Locating the telescope dish in a natural hollow provides stronger support for the dish. Locating FAST three miles away from the nearest inhabited town will give the radio telescope the perfect radio silence needed to do its job better.