The five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in China was turned on in September of 2016. Since then, the Chinese have made a few discoveries and revealed them to the public.
FAST is the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world, spanning 500 meters (1,640 feet) and eclipsing the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico. It is positioned in a vast karst depression in southwest China’s Guizhou Province. The telescope is being used to study the origin and evolution of the universe, and it has already found some intriguing signals. Now it is the first Chinese radio telescope to detect pulsars, and it could become the first telescope ever to find a pulsar outside our galaxy as early as next year, which would be a huge finding.
According to China Daily, the telescope has spotted dozens of pulsar candidates, several of which have since been confirmed by the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. Pulsars are neutron stars that spin incredibly rapidly, completing a rotation in a second or less, and that give off notable flashes of radiation.
We know of about 2,700 pulsars inside our Milky Way so far, with the first discovered back in 1967. FAST is expected to double that number, and may also aid in the study of gravitational waves. “It is truly encouraging to have achieved such results within just one year,” Peng Bo, deputy director of FAST, told China Daily.
FAST has not been without controversy, however. When it was constructed, it was reported that thousands of people had to be relocated to make room for it. In August of this year, various reports said they were struggling to find experts to run the facility.
These pulsar discoveries should hopefully get us back on track with the actual study of science, though. The telescope is also being used to hunt for signals from extraterrestrials, but as you might imagine that’s pretty unlikely. Up next, the researchers hope to begin hunting for interstellar molecules and perform a large-scale survey of the neutral hydrogen in the universe.
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Contributed by Dawn Luger of The Daily Sheeple.