“As the world’s largest single aperture telescope located at an extremely radio-quiet site, its scientific impact on astronomy will be extraordinary, and it will certainly revolutionize other areas of the natural sciences,” Nan Rendong, the project’s chief scientist, told China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency.
Unlike optical telescopes, which gather and focus light, radio telescopes are designed to detect radio frequencies from pulsars, rotating neutron stars and active galaxies. With its enormous diameter FAST eclipses Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the previous record holder with a diameter of about 1,000 feet.
Tim O’Brien, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, shared with reporters that FAST’s size can have a great impact on scientific exploration.
The telescope will allow astronomers to “survey hydrogen in very distant galaxies, detect molecules in space, search for natural radio wave emissions from planets orbiting other stars and help in the search for radio signals” from alien civilizations, O’Brien explained.
“FAST’s potential to discover an alien civilization will be 5 to 10 times that of current equipment, as it can see farther and darker planets,” Peng Bo, of the National Astronomical Observation, said.
Pulsars are of particular interest to the FAST team. Yue Youling, an associate researcher for the National Astronomical Observatories, said that the astronomy community has discovered 2,500 pulsars, but the novelty would allow to double this result.
“We have found more than 2,500 pulsars. We hope we can find at least double that number with this gigantic radio telescope. For example, very small or very big pulsars. Understanding the fundamental physics of pulsars will help us understand the Big Bang.”
Humans have been sending radio waves from our planet and into the cosmos for over 80 years. If an alien civilization within 1,000-light years had their version of FAST pointing toward Earth, they’d likely be able to detect evidence of an intelligent civilization.
As the technology creates radio waves that 9,000, Chinese authorities have decided to evacuate Guizhou Province citizens to create a radio-quiet zone for the telescope.
All families within a 3.1 mile radius of FAST had to be relocated in order to avoid terrestrial electromagnetic wave interference with the telescope.