Good News for ET Hunters

The world's largest single-aperture radio telescope in China will begin scanning the universe for signs of extra terrestrial life and habitable planets in September.


The five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in Guizhou, China will be able to scan twice the sky area covered by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the previous record holder for the largest single-aperture radio telescope in the world.


The FAST will also deliver readings between three and five times more sensitive than those from the Arecibo Observatory's, something that's made many scientists hopeful the telescope could lead to a breakthrough in our search for life in the universe.


The telescope first became operational in January, but the team realized there were still a substantial amount of radio frequency interference they believed they could further eliminate, according to a report in China Tech City.


According to Zhang Tongjie, an astronomer from Beijing Normal University who serves as chief scientist on the project, there are a number of 'interesting' narrowband signals that could be a sign of extra terrestrial life the team is eager to begin investigating.


The telescope consists of 4,500 36-foot triangular panels formed into a dish with a 33-ton 'retina' device suspended above it at a height of between 460 feet and 525 feet.


The new facility was built in the countryside of Pingtang County in the southwestern province of Guizhou, for a total cost of $269million. 


In addition to searching for alien life, the telescope will also gather data for the study of a wide range of cosmological phenomenon, including pulsars, black holes, gas clouds, and other distant galaxies. 


According to Li Di, chief scientist from the National Astronomical Observatories, the open-ended information gathering mission is driven by the a desire to better understand our place in the universe, something that's 'as visceral as feeding and clothing ourselves.'

'Ultimately, exploring the unknown is the nature of mankind,” he said in an interview with China Daily. 'It drives us to a greater future.'