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Daily Drip

China Opens Up World’s Largest Telescope for Foreign Use and Alien Hunting

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China’s “Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope,” otherwise known as “FAST,” is the largest radio telescope in the world. And starting April 1, China will now give foreign scientists access to it, for uses ranging from pulsar detection to the search for extraterrestrial life.

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Radio telescopes as powerful as FAST are used to map radio waves from stars, galaxies, and black holes in order to get a clearer picture of surrounding outer space. In the wake of last year’s Arecibo Observatory collapse in Puerto Rico — which housed the world’s largest radio telescope before FAST was built — the 175 million USD telescope in China’s Guizhou province is now the only one in the world capable of state-of-the-art pulsar and energetic movement detection.

Chinese scientists also plan to use FAST to search for life on other planets, which they say could be harnessing technology more developed than ours.

Li Di, a senior scientist at the site, wrote in a paper for Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics that FAST is “well positioned to conduct sensitive searches for radio emissions indicative of exo-intelligence.”

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According to the announcement, foreign researchers will be allotted 10% of the available research slots for the scope, and will have to submit an application to the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) to be considered.

First built in 2016 at the site of a 65-person village in Guizhou, the FAST telescope was not fully operational until January of 2020. Yet by that time, it had already discovered dozens of pulsars.

Lakshmi Iyengar
    Lakshmi Iyengar is a Yenching Scholar studying health, economics, and modern China. Before moving to Beijing, she majored in Biomedical Engineering at Yale. Follow her on twitter @vlakshmiiyengar for insights on China and life