Chinese state media has announced that the nation will launch its FAST alien-hunting mission later this year. The effort will involve China’s 500m Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), which wrapped up construction in 2016 and went operational back in January after years of testing. China has an ambitious goal — it wants to find intelligent extraterrestrial life, not just evidence of past life on other planets.
On May 31, Chinese state media “STDaily” announced the hunt for ‘extraterrestrial civilizations’ will start in September. FAST is currently the largest telescope of its kind in operation and it includes special advanced technologies that will help scientists sort through signals, reducing false positives and helping narrow down which ones may have originated from beyond our solar system.
FAST is located in China’s Guizhou province where it will be used for other efforts, as well. Back in December 2019, China Central Television claimed that the single-dish radio telescope had already detected 99 pulsars, which are rapidly spinning neutron stars.
Some of the signals collected by the mission may point toward intelligent alien life, but they can also result from human activities. At this time, officials say that some upgrading is taking place and that a new observation plan is being put together ahead of the September launch. As well, the report states that the search for alien life will not interfere with the normal scientific observations made by FAST.
According to FAST chief engineer Jiang Peng in a statement to China Central Television, the team behind the mission anticipates improving the telescope over the new three years, including a 50-percent boost to its effective observation time. With this technology, China has become a major contender in the search for intelligent life beyond Earth.