China’s giant alien hunting telescope already spotted multiple pulsars

  • The new FAST telescope detected two rapidly rotating stars, known as pulsars
  • Objects spotted 16 thousand and 4.1 thousand light-years away, respectively
  • Pulsars can act like ‘cosmic clocks’ and reveal insight on gravitational waves 

Cheyenne Macdonald For Dailymail.com

The largest single-dish radio telescope in the world has already begun to spot remarkable objects in the Milky Way, just a year into its career.

China’s Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has detected two rapidly rotating stars, known as pulsars, according to the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC).

These objects can act like ‘cosmic clocks’ when they spin at a steady rate, and can even shed light on phenomena such as gravitational waves.

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China¿s Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has detected two rapidly rotating stars, known as pulsars, according to the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC). An artist's impression is pictured 

China¿s Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has detected two rapidly rotating stars, known as pulsars, according to the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC). An artist's impression is pictured 

China’s Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has detected two rapidly rotating stars, known as pulsars, according to the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC). An artist’s impression is pictured 

WHAT IS A PULSAR? 

Pulsars are rotating, highly magnetised neutron stars.

These stars are made of matter much more densely packed than normal and which gives the entire star a density comparable to an atomic nucleus. 

Neutron stars also have extremely strong magnetic fields which accelerate charged particles.

The fields give off radiation in a cone shaped beam which sweeps across the sky like the light from a lighthouse as the star rotates.

When the beam sweeps over Earth, it becomes visible as a pulsar, producing light that cycles every few seconds to just a few milliseconds.

Their rotational period is so stable that some astronomers use it to calibrate instruments and have proposed using it to synchronise clocks. 

The FAST telescope detected the two new pulsars PSR J1859-01 and PSR J1931-01 16 thousand and 4.1 thousand light-years away, respectively.

The first has a spin period of 1.83 seconds, while the second has a period of .59 seconds.

They were spotted on August 22nd and 25, respectively.

After FAST first detected the pulsars on August 22nd and 25th, they were confirmed by Australia’s Parkes telescope on September 10.

While it’s thought that a huge number of pulsars exist in our own galaxy alone, few have been found.

Many of these are weak radio sources, or are masked by interference, according to NAOC.

But, with FAST serving as the most sensitive radio telescope in the world, it’s hoped that many millisecond pulsars will be discovered.

Next year, the scientists plan to broaden the search, using FAST to look for pulsars outside of the Milky Way as well.

The technical preparations for this shift are already underway, according to China Daily.

The massive new telescope in Guizhou Province, China is operated by NAOC.

The FAST telescope detected the two new pulsars - 16 thousand and 4.1 thousand light-years away, respectively. These objects can act like ¿cosmic clocks¿ when they spin at a steady rate, and can even shed light on phenomena such as gravitational waves. Artist's impression

The FAST telescope detected the two new pulsars - 16 thousand and 4.1 thousand light-years away, respectively. These objects can act like ¿cosmic clocks¿ when they spin at a steady rate, and can even shed light on phenomena such as gravitational waves. Artist's impression

The FAST telescope detected the two new pulsars – 16 thousand and 4.1 thousand light-years away, respectively. These objects can act like ‘cosmic clocks’ when they spin at a steady rate, and can even shed light on phenomena such as gravitational waves. Artist’s impression

It spotted the new pulsars using a combination of techniques, including drift-scan mode, a pulsar search database, and deep learning algorithms.

FAST began its search for alien life last September.

Built at a cost of 1.2 billion yuan (£140 million), it dwarfs the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico as the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, with twice the sensitivity and a reflector as large as 30 football fields.

With FAST serving as the most sensitive radio telescope in the world, it¿s hoped that many millisecond pulsars will be discovered

With FAST serving as the most sensitive radio telescope in the world, it¿s hoped that many millisecond pulsars will be discovered

With FAST serving as the most sensitive radio telescope in the world, it’s hoped that many millisecond pulsars will be discovered

Built at a cost of 1.2 billion yuan (£140 million), it dwarfs the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico as the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, with twice the sensitivity and a reflector as large as 30 football fields

Built at a cost of 1.2 billion yuan (£140 million), it dwarfs the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico as the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, with twice the sensitivity and a reflector as large as 30 football fields

Built at a cost of 1.2 billion yuan (£140 million), it dwarfs the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico as the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, with twice the sensitivity and a reflector as large as 30 football fields

FAST- KEY FACTS 

Cost to build: 1.2 billion yuan (£140 million)

Number of panels: 4,450

Size: 500 metres

Electromagnetic waves detected: 1,300 light-years away

Number of people relocated: 10,000

Relocation costs: 1.8 billion yuan ($270 million) 

FAST will use its vast dish, made up of 4,450 panels, to search for signs of intelligent life, and to observe distant pulsars – tiny, rapidly spinning neutron stars believed to be the products of supernova explosions.

Construction of FAST began in 2011, and local officials relocated nearly 10,000 people living within five kilometres (three miles) to create a quieter environment for monitoring.

Cell phones in the area must be powered off to maintain radio silence.

In recent years, China has been ramping up its space plans, with recent reports even claiming China is talking with the European Space Agency about collaborating on a human settlement on the moon.