Credit: CCTV/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

China’s large radio telescope is wrapping up testing and commissioning work – an effort that took place over the past three years. One of its assignments is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), among other scientific tasks.

Located in southwest China’s Guizhou Province, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) began its operation in September 2016.

Pulsar detections

China Central Television (CCTV) reports that FAST has so far detected and identified 99 pulsars, more than 30 of which are faster millisecond pulsars. The search for extraterrestrial life and other scientific targets is also under way.

“In the process of observing signals from celestial bodies, we also collect signals that might be emitted by humans or extraterrestrial intelligence,” explains Zhu Ming, director of the scientific observation and data division at the FAST operations and development center.

Credit: CCTV/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

“However, this is a huge amount of work since most signals we see, 99 percent of them, are various noises, so we need to take our time to identify the signals we want in the noises,” Zhu said.


A recent user training session was organized, bringing together more than 100 astronomers from across China to discuss their experiences and discoveries during the trial operation of FAST.

Li Kejia, a researcher from the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University explains the FAST is now mainly used to measure the performance of pulsar timing system, to directly measure the existence of gravitational waves.

“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,” Li told CCTV.

Credit: CCTV/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

Increasing observation modes

 Researchers using FAST — the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope — have increased the facility’s observation modes from three to more than 10. Also underway is research and development work on new receiving equipment.

“I hope that in the next three years, we can further improve the reliability of FAST, and increase its effective observation time to 50 percent. Since it’s already about three times as sensitive as the second largest telescope in the world, so a 50 percent effective observation time is already very remarkable,” said Jiang Peng, chief engineer of the FAST project in the CCTV video report.

Go to this CCTV video clip about FAST at:

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