Full view of China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) [IMAGE: CHINESE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES]

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) is the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world. It is more sensitive than other single-dish radio telescopes, such as the Arecibo, Effelsberg, and Green Bank telescopes. The design of FAST differs from that of a fully steerable telescope, and shares similar concepts with the 305-meter Arecibo telescope. It is built in a karst depression to achieve a larger aperture and avoid the risk of flooding. Together with the active reflector and the flexible feed support system, these three main features give FAST its current status.

Based on its characteristics, several scientific research projects have been designed for FAST, including searching for and timing of pulsars, searching for HI (neutral hydrogen) galaxies and HI mapping of the Milky Way, molecular line searches, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), tasks taken on as part of the VLBI network, and several others.

Since the discovery of the first pulsar, more than 240 pulsars have been discovered by FAST. About 30 percent of them are millisecond pulsars. There are also pulsars of special kinds, such as pulsars with nulling. Another time domain study using FAST is of SETI in the radio band, i.e., radio SETI. Recently, the first SETI observation using FAST was reported, marking FAST as a powerful machine in SETI signal searching.

As a new dimension of the parameter space, the human bandwidth of FAST is notable. More users are encouraged to observe using FAST and to contribute ideas. The FAST team has called for proposals from astronomers working in China in 2020. The calling for worldwide proposals will come in 2021. With more proposals, the human bandwidth of FAST will increase even more.

Source: The Innovation

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