The cutting-edge Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope against a backdrop of lush greenery and rugged terrain in China's Guizhou province. Photo: Xinhua

China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, has discovered 11 new pulsars since its September 2016 inauguration, according to China’s National Astronomical Observatories.

The huge silver bowl made of aluminum panels that sits in a Karst basin – in an area equivalent to 30 soccer pitches – in southwestern China’s Guizhou province, has discovered 51 stars which bear features similar to pulsars, and 11 of them have been subsequently confirmed as new pulsars after cross-examination by observatories in other countries.

A pulsar is a highly magnetized, rotating neutron star, which emits two beams of electromagnetic radiation periodically.

The bowl-shaped FAST, as viewed horizontally. Photo: Xinhua
Maintenance staff work in FAST’s feed cabin. Photo: Xinhua

Source: Explore Scientific

An astronomer with the National Astronomical Observatories told Xinhua that pulsars with high density and energy could be irreplaceable “celestial laboratories” to serve as natural navigational satellites to locate and guide spacecraft.

“FAST has huge scientific potential and it may detect unprecedented signals during searches for pulsars, which will help us in further studies on astrophysics and basic physics,” the state agency said.

Pulsar observation is an important task for FAST, which can be used to confirm the existence of gravitational radiation and black holes and help unravel many other major questions in physics.

FAST is also charged with exploring interstellar molecules and alien communication signals, if there are any.

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