Credit: New China TV/XinhuaVideo/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest filled-aperture and most sensitive radio telescope, officially opened to the world this week, with the facility set to play a major role in advancing global astronomy.

FAST is also known as “Tianyan” or the “China Sky Eye.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

In a China Central Television (CCTV) interview, Peng Bo, director of the key laboratory of FAST, said overseas scientists are welcomed to participate in a collaborative way. “It’s normal to assign some open time of the telescope for international users, in order to expand telescopes impact on science outcomes.”

Credit: New China TV/XinhuaVideo/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Observation applications

According to a statement by the National Astronomical Observatories (NAO) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), astronomers from around the globe can submit their observation applications for evaluation up until May 15, with the results will be announced on July 20.

Observations by overseas scientists will start in August, said the NAO.

Around 10 percent of FAST’s observation time in the first year, which equates to roughly 450 hours, is expected to be allocated to foreign scientists.

Credit: New China TV/XinhuaVideo/CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

One Earth, one sky

Peng told CCTV that China is sharing its facilities with the international science community under the principle of “one earth, one sky.”

“Due to the bandwidth limitation, it’s not practical to transfer the huge amount of data from the FAST observatory over the Internet, thus it is encouraged to make direct copies of data with hard disk at the FAST data center,” Peng said in the interview.

“There are many interesting science topics. Nowadays, mainly on pulsars, we may find new types of pulsar, such as the neutral star or black hole binary system,” said Peng.

In an earlier interview with China’s Xinhua news agency, Peng also noted that FAST’s potential to discover an alien civilization will be 5 to 10 times that of current equipment.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is an international, collaborative affair. SETI scientist Dan Werthimer of the University of California, Berkeley, co-authored a recent paper on China’s SETI program with the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST). He is shown here with other FAST SETI collaborators. Credit: Dan Werthimer

“FAST is already doing spectacular science; opening FAST to the international community will make the science even more spectacular,” Dan Werthimer of the University of California, Berkeley’s Astronomy Department and Space Sciences Laboratory told Inside Outer Space.

How was China’s FAST telescope constructed? A glimpse at the world’s largest filled-aperture radio telescope in 100 seconds can be viewed in this GLOBALink​ video at:

Also, go to these informative videos focused on FAST:

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