FAST Forward: China’s Massive New Alien-Finding Telescope Explained

FAST radio telescope alien-finding telescope CHINA
Written by Gina Smith

China’s new FAST radio telescope is the ultimate alien-finding telescope. Here’s what else it’s good for …

aNewDomainGina-Smith-anewdomain-FAST-telescope-CHINA — China’s so-called Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), unveiled last week in Pingtang County, China,  is one big mama.

The $180 million behemoth now is the largest radio telescope in the world, according to a China’s Xinhua News report carried in The world’s second largest radio telescope, at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, is 195 meters smaller in diameter.

And if anything has ever had a chance of detecting intelligent alien civilizations, it’s FAST. Its size and power make it the ultimate alien-finding telescope.

The FAST telescope’s ability to detect interstellar signals up to 1,351 light years away makes it a natural for “searching for intelligent extraterrestrial life,” said Qian Lei, a researcher at China’s National Astronomical Observatory, which By Psr1909 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons FAST radio telescope alien-finding telescopeannounced the news to the world last week.

“In theory, if there is civilization in outer space, the radio signal it sends will be similar to the signal we can receive when a pulsar … is approaching us,” Qian said.

Scientists have been listening to the galaxy for years in an attempt to pinpoint some series of radio signals that are sufficiently organized in an orderly way that would suggest an intelligent civilization is behind them. But the FAST telescope isn’t just a listener. Like the Arecibo telescope before it, which in 1974 sent out crude images of a human and some diagrams of the organic chemicals that make life possible, it can send messages, too.

There are other, perhaps more practical tasks ahead for FAST.

Like other massive radio telescopes, can be employed for observing pulsars and for studying how gasses have evolved and behave in the galaxy.

Check out the video below.

For aNewDomain, I’m Gina Smith.

Cover image: STR/AFP, All Rights Reserved. Inside image of the FAST telescope under construction in China in 2015: By Psr1909 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], All Rights Reserved.