Throughout the last five years, China has been working on a new radio telescope called the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). Of course, this isn’t just any radio telescope; at 500 meters in diameter, it’s the largest radio telescope in the world.
Image Credit: National Astronomical Observatories FAST project
FAST, also known as Tianyan, which translates to “Eye of Heaven,” was officially completed in the middle of July of this year. This means the convex dish of 4,450 individual triangular panels has been fully assembled and has been ready to study the universe for quite some time now.
Following the completion, China appears to have finally turned on their magnificent achievement in September. Although it will still take some time to calibrate the equipment for proper listening, it’s already scouring the universe for signals.
It’s believed any advanced alien civilizations out there may be trying to communicate with us using similar radio signals, so having a larger dish to listen for them means we can penetrate deeper into space to find them.
“The ultimate goal of FAST is to discover the laws of the development of the universe," said researcher Qian Lei. "In theory, if there is civilization in outer space, the radio signal it sends will be similar to the signal we can receive when a pulsar (spinning neutron star) is approaching us.”
For what it’s worth, a recent radio signal captured by RATAN-600 in Russia took scientists by surprise when it resembled the mysterious ‘WOW’ signal from 1977 that was observed by SETI. Unfortunately, there was a lot of sketchiness behind its credibility that suggests it may have been a hoax.
Perhaps FAST can shed some light on the credibility of this claim by studying the region and listening for even more of these signals. If we’re lucky, we may even find them coming from other sources as well.
FAST has a tourism-friendly environment where tourists are free to walk around a platform surrounding the radio telescope. This allows anyone to get a view of the massive monument and learn more about the facility.
Source: Associated Press