China's FAST telescope finds two pulsars during trial operation

Xinhua Published: 2017-10-10 11:09:00
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China's National Astronomical Observatories announces on October 10 that China-based FAST, the world's largest single-dish radio telescope has identified two pulsars. [Photo: Chinaplus/Liu Qing]

China's National Astronomical Observatories announces on October 10 that China-based FAST, the world's largest single-dish radio telescope has identified two pulsars. [Photo: Chinaplus/Liu Qing]

Chinese astronomers have announced the discovery of a pair of pulsars using FAST, the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, which has only been in trial operations for the past year.

CRI reporter Guo Yan has the details.

The pulsars are 41-hundred and 16-thousand light years from earth.

Li Di, chief scientist at the National Astronomical Observatory of China says the two pulsars were discovered in August while FAST was drift-scanning the southern galactic plane.

"The electronic equipment on FAST is some of the most advanced in the world, and has incredible sensitivity. The discovery of pulsars depends on the signal time they put out per rotation. Because of their distance, the signals were comparatively weak. This is why the telescope has a huge advantage in finding pulsars, due to its high sensitivity. "

The discovery of the two pulsars has since been confirmed by a radio telescope in Australia.

Chinese experts contend that radio telescopes normally need 3 to 5 years of service to become as efficient as FAST has become in just one year.

Pulsars are very useful tools for astronomers.

Observations of a pulsar in a binary neutron star system have been used to indirectly confirm the existence of gravitational radiation.

Certain types of pulsars rival atomic clocks in their accuracy in keeping time.

Scientists suggest they're eventually going to be handy tools for the navigation of space vehicles.

Li Di says FAST is also going to be used to study gravitational waves, which scientists hope to study further to understand more about the origins of our universe.

"Generally speaking, around a hundred pulsars will need to be discovered with the hope that one of them can be used to measure gravitational waves. So it's just a start for us. And we are confident that FAST is capable of making stand-alone contributions to the basic research on the detection of gravitational waves."

FAST stands for Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope.

The massive satellite dish was completed in September 2016.

It's been built out of a naturally deep and round karst depression in the southern province of Guizhou.

The full areas of the giant space telescope are the equivalent to around 30 football fields.

While FAST is already performing ahead of expectations, Yan Jun, director with NAOC, suggests the research team hopes to improve the performance of the equipment.

"In the next two years, our team will continue to be dedicated to enhancing the performance and reliability of the telescope, while at the same time, keeping close watch on the sky. Meanwhile, we're also going to expand our research collaboration with scientists from both home and abroad to get better results."

Through the use of FAST, astronomers are hoping to be able to survey hydrogen in the Milky Way and other galaxies, detect thousands of new pulsars and seek out more answers to the origin and evolution of our universe.

For CRI, this is Guo Yan.

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