China is known by many strange inventions that have blown up our minds in the past years, and it makes sense if you think about it, since the country is famous by its creativity and quirky approach to technology.
One of these famous inventions is a huge radio telescope that was switched on in September 2016, this telescope is also known as Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) and it has made some interesting discoveries since it was turned on.
The telescope is located in the Dawodang depression, a natural basin in Pingtan County, Guizhou Province, southwest China and it is considered the largest filled-aperture radio telescope with more than 500m (1,640ft) diameter dish and it costed more than $180 million to build the “Eye of Heaven,”
The purpose of this telescope is to detect pulsars from out of our world and in the past year, it has spotted dozens of pulsar candidates, several of which have been confirmed by another radio telescope in Australia.
But what is a pulsar you might ask and why is it so important?
Well it is a rotating hugely magnetized neutron star or to make it simpler, they are compact objects roughly the same size as a small city that have a mass similar to our sun, so in a few words you can say that pulsars are the remains of long-dead starts, the cores of supergiants left over from explosions that consumed them millions of years ago.
If you still don’t understand why are they so important, they have been helping scientists from all over the world, in the search for planets beyond Earth’s solar system since they were discovered in 1967.
These could be really helpful to prove that there is life beyond Earth, since it could show us how many other galaxies have systems that resemble ours and that maybe in one of those systems there is a planet like Earth, with water, plants and yes… alien life
“FAST is going to become central in developing a new map of our universe that is going to be used for all sorts of science. It will probably be many decades before a better map is created,” said Marko Krco, a visiting U.S. astronomer at the NAOC.
Two pulsars named pulsar #1 and #2 were discovered on August 22 and 25 respectively, probably many people will think that this doesn’t really mean much since there is a still an enormous number of pulsars in the Milky Way yet, but FAST’s extremely sensitive detection can help us to open an array of different elements of our universe, so finding real alien life outside the solar system is not impossible at all.
Apart of mapping our universe and give us a new idea of what it might look like for futures expeditions, FAST could help us to fill in the empty spaces that will make humanity understand the galaxy even more.
“It is truly encouraging to have achieved such results within just one year,” Peng Bo, deputy director of FAST in an interview for China Daily.
Nonetheless, the construction of FAST sparkled a heated debate since a lot of people in the area had to be re-located to make way for it and also by the time Pulsar #1 and #2 were discovered, various report said that they were running out of experts on the facility.
Still, let’s hope that this telescope could being used to hunt for signals that could tell us if we are not alone, and even though that this could not happen anytime soon, signals from distant rapidly spinning stars is just as awesome, right?