Three scientists focus on FAST. HERE is what you need to know.
Date: 2021-03-31
Source: WLA
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China has just officially opened its FAST radio telescope to international scientists on Wednesday. Scientists across the world can submit proposals for astronomical observations using the telescope.

Scientists have proposed ambitious observational objectives through FAST, such as gravitational waves, exoplanets, ultra-high energy cosmic rays and interstellar matter, to advance human knowledge of astronomy, astrophysics and fundamental physics.

THREE WLA scientists George Smoot III, Joseph Taylor Jr. and Sheldon Glashow shared their opinions about FAST:

George Smoot III(source: WLA)

George Smoot III (The Nobel Prize in Physics 2006):
FAST (Five Hundred Meter aperture spherical telescope) has a large role to play as a result of its large collecting area for radio waves. The means that it can focusweak signals into its array of receivers, Because of that it has detected already and will detect many kinds of objects for example pulsars (rotating magnetic neutron stars).

I hope that FAST will detect a number of these that are very stable and can be used in conjunction with other stable pulsars in the southern hemisphere for long term observation and detection of gravitational waves at low frequencies such as years. That will let us know of things such as supermassive black hole merger and primordial gravitational waves. There are a whole series of observational programs that one can design for the FAST system to learn about various astrophysical and cosmological phenomena.

I visited FAST while it was under construction about 3 years ago. After that trip a postdoctoral fellow Ivan Debono and I wrote a paper proposing that FAST could do a very effective  21-cm intensity sky survey making a 3-D map of the universe from our galaxy out to a distance where the light travel time is essentially half the age of the universe.

Joeph Taylor Jr (source: WLA)

Joseph Taylor Jr. (The Nobel Prize in Physics 1993):
Mankind's knowledge of the Universe beyond the solar system comes almost entirely from electromagnetic radiation traveling at the speed of light and spanning huge distances.  Human eyes and optical telescopes are sensitive to only a small fraction of the full electromagnetic spectrum. Radio telescopes like FAST can provide information on the origin and evolution of the Universe not obtainable in any other way.

FAST provides astronomical capabilities not available anywhere else in the world. Astronomers and physicists who need those capabilities will surely take advantage of China's generosity in making the tools widely available. Fundamental science is an enterprise that ideally pays no attention to national boundaries.


Sheldon Glashow (Source: WLA)

Sheldon Glashow (The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979):

Radio waves from space were discovered by Karl Jansky in 1932,  my birth year. They have played a major role in astronomy ever since, finding Quasars in 1950s,  Mercury's synchronous orbit in '64, first pulsar in '67, first  binary pulsar '74,  first millisecond pulsar '83, first measure of an asteroid in '89, first Fast Radio Burst in '07, first prebiotic organic chemicals 
in deep space in '08, first FRB in our galaxy in '20...  Several of these discoveries were made by  the late Arecibo telescope, for which FAST will be a much bigger and better replacement.  The timing of its deployment could not have been better.

My understanding is that FAST, unlike Arecibo,  will  not have the capability to broadcast powerful signals. In any event, I see no danger even were such a signal to be detected 
by distant aliens.  They are simply too far away to trouble us.


FAST is short for Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope. Its construction was completed in September 2016 and it officially began operating in January 2020.

Measuring 500 meters in diameter, FAST is the largest radio telescope in the world, surpassing the 305-meter telescope of the U.S. Arecibo Observatory. The receiving surface area of FAST is 250,000 square meters, about the size of 30 standard football fields.

FAST is also believed to be the world's most sensitive single-dish radio telescope, and is 10 times more sensitive than the 100-meter Radio Telescope Effelsberg in Germany.