Alien hunting has typically been a western endeavour, according to one expert, but China is now taking control thanks to its new Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST). FAST is now completely up and running, and scientists have huge plans for the world’s largest telescope.
The Chinese space agency CNSA has outlined its goals for FAST.
One such aim is to scan the universe in search of hydrogen, while another will be to examine pulsars from distant galaxies.
However, the main highlight for many science fans will be its hunt for interstellar molecules, the building blocks of life, and to detect interstellar communications signals.
In other words, the telescope will scan the skies in search of any indication an advanced civilisation of aliens may be trying to make contact with us.
Made up of 4,450 panels and with a width of 1,640ft (500m), the Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, dwarfs Puerto Rico’s 984ft-wide (300m) Arecibo Observatory – the previous record holder for the 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.
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.
With this telescope, China will become the world leader in scanning the cosmos, according to scientific author Michael Michaud.
He told Space.Com: “Most scientific fields had been dominated by Americans and other Westerners since the end of World War II. China is now catching up with, and in some areas surpassing, Western achievement.
“Already, China has the resources to become the world’s leading nation in several fields of scientific research and technology development.”
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 as 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.
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