Astronomers around the world will soon get an exciting opportunity to observe the sky like never before when the world’s largest Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) opens up to the global scientific community starting April 1st.
Located in China, the “Sky Eye” parabolic dish is a 500-meter (1,600 foot) telescope that is being used for spotting pulsars and other energetic astronomical targets as well as searching for alien life. It’s currently the only telescope of its kind that can do these specific types of observations following the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico.
Although it’s located in China, the country’s National Astronomical Observatories is reserving 10 percent of observation times for global astronomers this year, with observation times to be doled out starting August 1st.
The telescope was first put to use last year by Chinese scientists and has so far imaged 240 pulsars, which are highly magnetized spinning compact stars (typically neutrons stars but also white dwarfs.)
For all of you space geeks, the most exciting observations from the telescope came from the Messier 92 star cluster where astronomers observed a so-called millisecond pulsar. The pulsar is said to spin much faster than normal pulsars at an incredible 316.5 rotations per second, while simultaneously sucking in and ejecting matter from its companion star.