China’s FAST telescope just spotted aliens Here’s what you need to know

(ORDO NEWS) — This phrase is the standard that astronomers would apply to a curious signal received by China‘s Sky Eye telescope that could be a transmission from alien technology.

An article reporting the signal was posted on the website of the Chinese state-supported newspaper Science and Technology Daily , but was later removed. So, have astronomers finally found evidence for intelligent life beyond Earth? And is it hushed up?

We should be intrigued but not overly excited (yet). An interesting signal must pass many tests to see if it really carries the signature of extraterrestrial technology or is simply the result of an unexpected source of terrestrial interference.

And as for the deletion: press releases are usually timed to be released at the same time with peer-reviewed results not yet available, so they were probably released a little early by mistake.

A look into the sky

The Sky Eye, which is officially known as the Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), is the largest and most sensitive single-dish radio telescope in the world. A marvel of engineering, his gigantic structure is built inside a natural pool in the mountains of Guizhou, China.

The telescope is so huge that it cannot be physically tilted, but it can be pointed in the right direction with the help of thousands of actuators that deform the reflecting surface of the telescope. By deforming the surface, the position of the telescope’s focus changes, and the telescope can look at a different part of the sky.

FAST captures radiation in the radio range (up to 10 cm) and is used for astronomical research in a variety of areas. One area is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI.

SETI observations are mostly carried out in “containment” mode, which means that they are taken while the telescope is also running its main science programs. In this way, it is possible to scan large areas of the sky for signs of alien technology, or “technosignatures”, without interfering with other scientific operations. For special targets, such as nearby exoplanets, ad hoc SETI observations are still being made.

The hunt for Alien Technology

The search for technosignatures has been going on since the 1960s, when American astronomer Frank Drake had the 26-meter Tatel telescope head to two nearby sun-like stars and scan them for signs of the technology.

Over the years, the search for technosignatures has become much more thorough and accurate. The systems installed at FAST are also capable of processing billions of times more radio spectrum than in Drake’s experiment.

Despite these advances, we have yet to find any evidence of life beyond Earth.

FAST sifts through huge amounts of data. The telescope transmits 38 billion samples per second to a cluster of high-performance computers, which then create extremely detailed patterns of incoming radio signals. Then, these charts are used to search for signals similar to technosignatures.

With such a large collection area, FAST can pick up incredibly weak signals. It is about 20 times more sensitive than Australia’s Murriyang Telescope at the Parkes Radio Observatory. FAST can easily detect a transmitter on a nearby exoplanet with the same output power as the radar systems we have here on Earth.

Sensitivity problem

The problem with this sensitivity is that you can detect radio interference that would otherwise be too weak to detect. We SETI researchers have encountered this problem before.

Last year, with the help of Murriyang, we discovered an extremely interesting signal, which we named BLC1.

However, it turned out to be very strange interference (not aliens). In order to reveal its true nature, we had to develop a new verification system.

In the case of BLC1, about a year elapsed from the initial report to the publication of the peer-reviewed analysis. Similarly, we may have to wait a bit for the FAST signal to be carefully analyzed.

Professor Zhang Tongjie, Chief Scientist of the China Extraterrestrial Civilization Research Group, recognized this in science and technology. Daily Report :

The possibility that a suspicious signal is radio interference is also very high and needs to be further confirmed and ruled out. This can be a long process.

And we may have to get used to the gap between looking for possible signals and testing them. FAST telescopes and other telescopes are likely to find many more interesting signals.

Most of them will turn out to be interference, but some may be new astrophysical phenomena and some may be valid em> technosignatures.

Be intrigued

Will extraordinary FAST signals be able to handle the burden of extraordinary evidence? Until their work is reviewed and published, it’s too early to tell, but it’s encouraging that their SETI search algorithms are finding interesting signals.

Between FAST, the Breakthrough Listen initiative, and the SETI Institute’s COSMIC program, there has been a lot of interest and activity in the SETI area. And it’s not just radio waves: searches are underway using optical and infrared light.

As for right now: stay intrigued, but don’t get too excited.

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