China is one step closer to leading the search for alien radio signals. On Sunday the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced that the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has begun operations. FAST takes over the title of world’s largest radio telescope from the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
“Once completed, FAST will lead the world for at least 10 to 20 years,” said Yan Jun, director general of the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC).
FAST will be able to do much more than just listen for signals from potential extra-terrestrial intelligence. The radio telescope will also help to study a number of aspects of the universe, like pulsars, the makeup of the Milky Way and more.
CAS says that following the completion of the telescope’s construction earlier this year, it has officially been turned on and a testing and debugging phase is underway.
One of its recent trial observations involved receiving electromagnetic waves from a pulsar 1,351 light years away.