Now, with China set for a final review of the completed project later this month, scientists say they’ve already used the telescope to detect a notoriously strange radio signal beaming through space.
Every once in a while, radio telescopes on Earth detect powerful signals from unknown sources.
These Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs for short) are often singular flashes, but a few of them have been observed repeating at seemingly random intervals.
One particular signal, known as FRB 121102, is notorious for popping up again and again, and China’s shiny new telescope heard it loud and clear.
The science team using FAST detected FRB 121102’s telltale signals on August 29th, hearing “more than a few dozen bursts” of the signal.
This particular event was especially significant because no other telescope on Earth has ever detected so many repetitions of the signal in such a short period of time, suggesting that the incredible power of China’s new telescope could help unlock the signal’s secrets.
Going forward, FAST will have its hands full, with researchers hoping to use it in the ongoing search for distant pulsars, elements like hydrogen, and of course additional Fast Radio Bursts.