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Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China’s FAST Space Telescope Officially Joins in the Hunt for Intelligent Extraterrestrial Civilizations

ET hunter

(Photo : NAO) FAST.

China's new FAST (Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope), the largest of its kind in the world, officially joined the SETI global network hunting for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life in the universe.

FAST is the world's largest filled aperture (single dish) radio telescope with a dish consisting of 4,450 triangular panels. Located in southwestern Guizhou province, FAST is also the second largest radio telescope after Russia's RATAN-600, which has a sparsely filled aperture.

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Andrew Siemion, director of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, said the center had entered into a partnership with the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAO) that built and operates FAST in the hunt for evidence of advanced alien civilizations.

The Berkeley center's Breakthrough Listen project, which has begun a 10-year search for intelligent life on other world, is leading the hunt for intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations.

Siemion said Breakthrough Listen recently entered into a partnership with FAST and NAO. NAO is confident FAST will be a big help in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.

"FAST's potential to discover an alien civilization will be five to 10 (times) that of current equipment, as it can see farther and darker planets," said Peng Bo, director of the NAO Radio Astronomy Technology Laboratory.

FAST's field of vision is almost twice that of the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico that's been the world's biggest single aperture radio telescope for the past 53 years.

It's expected to shine a brighter light on the origins of the universe by mapping the distribution of hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe. FAST will also allow scientists to detect many more pulsars, which are dense, rotating stars that act as cosmic clocks.

This could give scientists with the capability to detect gravitational waves -- ripples in spacetime -- that shed light on how galaxies evolved.

Locating the telescope dish in a natural hollow provides stronger support for the dish. Locating FAST three miles away from the nearest inhabited town will give the radio telescope the perfect radio silence needed to do its job better.

"The FAST telescope will be absolutely incredible for conducting extremely sensitive searches of Tabby's star for evidence of technologically produced radio emissions," said Siemion.

"We are very excited to work with our colleagues in China on conducting SETI observations with FAST, including of Tabby's star. Within its frequency range, FAST is the most sensitive telescope in the world capable of conducting SETI observations of Tabby's star, and will be able to detect the weakest signals."

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