China has grown in science and technology rapidly during the 1990s to 2010s. The nation is quickly progressing in several areas, such as infrastructure, education, high-tech manufacturing, and so on. China has recently finished its testing-and-commissioning phase of its gigantic 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope to astronomers from all over the world. It took China three years to complete the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world. As per a published article in the Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has claimed it aims to hunt exoplanets.
It is located in southern China’s Guizhou province; the FAST started the trial operation in September 2016. According to Nature, The telescope will scan the sky twice as much sky as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico that is the second-largest single-dish telescope. It is capable of detecting even the finest of radio waves coming from celestial objects or hypothetical extraterrestrials. The exciting thing is, it will also be able to discover the world that might harbor alien life.
In 2016, Qian Lei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences stated that "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."
FAST chief scientist Li Di told Xinhua claimed, "All the planets with magnetic fields in our solar system can be found generating such radiation, which can be measured and studied by radio telescopes. But research on the planets' magnetic fields cannot be realized through optical and infrared astronomical observation. Do the exoplanets have magnetic fields? If they have, they should also generate radio radiation under the influence of the wind of their parent stars."
More Facts About the Giant Telescope
The telescope is located in a very remote location, and so the engineers faced many difficulties while constructing. The 500-meter dish took five years total to get completed, which is comprised of about 4,400 aluminum panels.
- The telescope can also help in the fast discovery of phenomena significantly.
- According to NASA, during testing alone, it found more than 100 pulsars where scientists were aware of only 2,000 pulsars.
- Nature also revealed that the telescope has already detected hundreds of fast radio bursts from a single known source. The scientists said it would be a tough challenge to store vast amounts of data the telescope will be collecting over the coming years.
Scientists of FAST, in their latest publication, said they are planning to discover exoplanets within 100 light years from Earth with magnetic fields. Recently, the research team arranged a user training session. More than 100 astronomers from across China attended the event to discuss their experiences and discoveries during the trial operation of the big dish. Li Kejia, a researcher from the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, said, "The sensitivity of FAST is very high, so the accuracy of the data measured is very good." He further added that "FAST has a promising future in terms of gravitational wave detection."