FAST telescope to explore extra-galactic radio pulsars in 2018

People's Daily Online

After identifying multiple pulsars in its one-year trial operation, China’s 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) may become the world’s first telescope to capture extragalactic radio pulsars, as well as exploring the possibility of extraterrestrial civilization.

“FAST may become the first [telescope] to find extragalactic radio pulsars. We’ve been preparing for this cause, which may kick off [our research] as early as in 2018,” a scientist from the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences told Thepaper.cn.

Over 2,700 pulsars have been identified since the first one was discovered by British astronomers Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish on November 28, 1967. But almost all of them are within the scope of the Milky Way. Many scientists expect FAST to be the first telescope to spot a pulsar outside our own galaxy, according to Xinhua News Agency.

In addition to finding the extragalactic pulsars, FAST may monitor the radio waves transmitted by possible extraterrestrial civilizations. As the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, FAST is sensitive enough to capture the signal of a cell phone being used on the moon.

“Parkes Observatory has allocated 20 percent of its research time on finding intelligent life outside of the Earth, but so far we’ve found nothing. FAST can observe much more of the [universe] and may bring us some good news about extraterrestrial civilization,” George Hobbs, a research scientist at Parkes Observatory in Australia, told Xinhua.