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China’s Super-Telescope FAST Joins Hunt for Aliens on Tabby’s Star

Nov 02, 2016 04:40 AM EDT
World's Largest Radio Telescope Under Construction
China’s giant radio telescope is joining the search for alien life in the mysterious flickering star known as Tabby’s Star.
(Photo : VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

China's monster radio telescope, FAST, will be joining the quest to find "intelligent aliens" that inhabit the controversial Tabby's Star. 

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope or FAST is a monstrous single-dish radio telescope occupying a valley in China's Guizhou province. Known as the world's largest radio telescope, FAST measures 500 meters wide, which could easily fit in about 30 soccer fields.

According to Andrew Siemion, director of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, the center had recently entered into a partnership with FAST to join the Breakthrough Listen SETI project, South China Morning Post reports.

"Breakthrough Listen recently entered into a partnership with FAST and the National Astronomical Observatory of China," Siemion said in a statement.

Breakthrough Listen is a $100 million project funded by Russian entrepreneur and tech investor Yuri Milner. Its mission is to conduct a 10-year search for evidence of an advanced civilization beyond Earth.

In late October, Breakthrough Listen has targeted the controversial star called KIC 8462852 or Tabby's Star, otherwise known to the public as "alien megastructure" star. The star, which is in the constellation Cygnus about 1,500 light years away from Earth, has been mysteriously dimming irregularly for days at a time. The flickering signals from the star were initially thought to be a result of an alien megastructure.

Observations by NASA's Kepler telescope showed that the star had been exhibiting a dramatic decrease in brightness by 22 percent, which is unlike the dimming of other stars.

The scientific community has also speculated that the dimming of Tabby's Star could be caused by a Dyson structure, which is a giant array of solar energy collectors in orbit around the star that could have been built by an advanced alien civilization. This hypothesis has led telescopes around the world turn their attention to the mysterious star.

"The FAST telescope will be absolutely incredible for conducting extremely sensitive searches of Tabby's star for evidence of technologically produced radio emissions," Siemion said. "We are very excited to work with our colleagues in China on conducting SETI observations with FAST, including of Tabby's star. Within its frequency range, FAST is the most sensitive telescope in the world capable of conducting SETI observations of Tabby's star, and will be able to detect the weakest signals."

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