China’s giant FAST radio telescope to join hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence

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November 2, 2016 SilentCircle >> From scmp.com

The world’s largest radio telescope, in southwestern Guizhou (貴州) province, is joining an international search for extraterrestrial intelligence focused on a strange, flickering star that has sparked unprecedented curiosity in recent months.

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Andrew Siemion, director of the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Research Centre at the University of California, Berkeley, said in October that the centre had entered into a partnership with the FAST radio telescope in the hunt for evidence of advanced civilisation in space.

The 1.2b yuan (HK$1.37 billion) FAST – short for five-hundred-metre aperture spherical telescope – has a dish bigger than 30 soccer fields and a diameter almost 200 metres greater than the world’s second-biggest radio telescope, operated by the United States at Arecibo in Puerto Rico.
The Berkeley centre’s Breakthrough Listen project, a US$100 million initiative founded last year by internet investor Yuri Milner to conduct a 10-year search for intelligent life in space, is leading the hunt.

“Breakthrough Listen recently entered into a partnership with FAST and the National Astronomical Observatory of China,” which built and operates the telescope, said Siemion, who is also a co-director of Breakthrough Listen.

In late October, Breakthrough Listen began targeting the flickering star – unofficially known as Tabby’s star – which is about 1,500 light years from earth in the constellation Cygnus, using the 100-metre-wide Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, US.

Officially called KIC 8462852, it was first flagged in September 2015 by American astronomer Tabetha Boyajian, then a post-doctoral researcher at Yale University and now an assistant professor at Louisiana State University.

Observations by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope showed the star dimming considerably and irregularly for days at a time – unlike the dimming of other stars caused by planets or comets.
China’s giant radio telescope tunes in to the universe

But the pattern was a good match for the blocking that would be caused by a Dyson structure, a massive array of solar collectors that could be built by a highly developed civilisation to surround a star to capture energy, first proposed by American physicist Freeman Dyson in 1960.
And that drew the attention of telescopes around the world.

“Everyone, every SETI programme telescope, I mean every astronomer that has any kind of telescope in any wavelength that can see Tabby’s star has looked at it,” Siemion said. “It’s been looked at with Hubble [Space Telescope], it’s been looked at with Keck [Observatory in Hawaii], it’s been looked at in the infrared and radio and high-energy [spectrums] and every possible thing you can imagine, including a whole range of SETI experiments. Nothing has been found.” [….]

Continue reading at: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2041602/chinas-giant-fast-radio-telescope-join-hunt


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