The trial period of China’s Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), said to be the biggest in the world, is successfully drawing to a close, as the 500-metre “dish” has detected 99 pulsars (rapidly spinning neutron stars), Chinese media reports.
The findings of the unique object, launched in 2016 in southwest Guizhou Province, include more than 30 fast-rotating millisecond pulsars, which are hard to detect. But apart from distant stars, the telescope is also looking for a signal from alien intelligence.
"In the process of observing signals from celestial bodies, we also collect signals that might be emitted by humans or extraterrestrial intelligence", the director of FAST’s scientific observation, Zhu Ming, told the country’s broadcaster CCTV.
However, the researcher explained that this is no easy task, but “a huge amount of work”, as 99% of signals are different noises. Identifying much-needed signals therefore takes time.
However, FAST’s observation modes keep developing, as scientists continue to work on new receiving equipment, as Space.com points out. Chinese researchers hope that the telescope’s abilities will continue to improve.
"I hope that in the next three years, we can further improve the reliability of FAST and increase its effective observation time to 50%. Since it's already about three times as sensitive as the second-largest telescope in the world, a 50% effective observation time is already very remarkable", FAST chief engineer Jiang Peng 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", one researcher from the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, Li Kejia, explained.