Vakoch, who is the president of METI International, an organization promoting messaging outer space and looking for extraterrestrial intelligence, noted that global astronomers will be invited to use the facility through a competitive review of observing proposals.
“By opening FAST to use by the broader international community, China is demonstrating its commitment to fostering astronomy as a global scientific enterprise,” Vakouch told Xinhua, saying that it may lead to “discoveries beyond our wildest imagination.”
Talking about FAST's scientific missions, Vakoch said it will be used to search for the signs of complex organic molecules in interstellar space, which will show how widely the basic building blocks of life are distributed throughout the cosmos.
"For over a half century, astronomers have been using radio telescopes to answer the haunting question, 'Are we alone?' But astronomers face a daunting challenge: the signals they seek are so weak that an incredibly sensitive telescope is needed to detect them," he said.
He further said that FAST's innovative design and huge collecting area gives it unmatched speed and sensitivity, making it vital to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the coming decades.
“We can expect China to become a world leader in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence because of its demonstrated commitment in building FAST,” Vakoch said.
According to Vakoch when signal processing capabilities are installed FAST will be able to scan the skies for signals that “can't be created by nature, but only by advanced civilizations,” People’s Daily reported the expert as saying.
“The telescope, nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, can accurately image twice as much the sky as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which had previously been the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, with double sensitivity and five to 10 times the surveying speed,” the publication reported.
Located in a natural depression in the mountains of Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, the construction takes up the space equal to 30 football fields. A total of 1.2 billion yuan (almost $180 million at the current exchange rate) have been invested in the project since 2011.
Despite its name, the telescope uses a circle of 300 meters (1,000 feet) of the total 500 meters to probe the distant universe. While the largest filled aperture telescope, it is second in size to Russia's RATAN-600, which is a sparsely filled aperture telescope and has a diameter of 576 meters.