China to open its gigantic FAST telescope to global scientists in 2021
China will open its Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, to global scientists next year for research work, said the National Astronomical Observatories (NAO) on Thursday.
The observatory, which began full operation in January 2020 after passing a series of technical and performance assessments, has the highest sensitivity to detect cosmic phenomena.
It's 2.5 times more sensitive than Puerto Rico's 305-meter-diameter Arecibo telescope, which holds the second spot.
It has identified more than 240 pulsars – super dense stars that emit electromagnetic beams at precise intervals.
Pulsars are a popular research subject as the "cosmic lighthouses" allow scientists to study extreme states of matter, measure cosmic distances and track time in an ultra-precise way.
Based on the data collected by FAST, scientists have published over 40 quality papers. With the help of the advanced telescope, Chinese research teams have become a key force in studying fast radio bursts, which are extremely short but powerful flashes in the sky.
"Fast radio bursts are one of the frontiers in astronomy because they are full of interesting questions to be answered," said Han Jinlin, a chief researcher at the NAO.
Researchers from the NAO used FAST to observe a repetitive fast radio burst called FRB180301 and found various "polarization angle swings", which gives an insight into the origin of fast radio bursts. The research was published in the journal Nature in October.
FAST has immense potential to detect fast radio bursts and gravitational waves, providing data support for research into the physical process of the Big Bang, according to experts at the NAO.
(With input from Xinhua.)
(Cover: The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in southwest China's Guizhou Province. /VCG)