'China Sky Eye': FAST telescope starts formal operation


(Photo: CGTN)

China's Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, is now officially being put into operation after it passed its national acceptance test, authorities said on Saturday.

All technical indicators of the telescope have reached or exceeded the planned level, and its performance is world-leading, Shen Zhulin, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a commissioning meeting on Saturday.

It will gradually open to astronomers around the globe, providing them with a powerful tool to uncover the mysteries surrounding the genesis and evolution of the universe.

The telescope, located in a naturally deep and round depression in southwestern China's Guizhou Province, was completed in September 2016.

Dubbed "China Sky Eye," the telescope is also the world's most sensitive radio telescope. It is about 2.5 times more sensitive than the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the second-largest single-dish radio telescope in the world. 

In a period of over two years, the telescope has discovered 102 pulsars, a type of neutron star, more than the total number of pulsars discovered by research teams in Europe and the United States during the same period, according to data released at the commissioning meeting. 

Using FAST, Chinese astronomers have detected repeated fast radio bursts (FRB), mysterious signals believed to be from a source about 3 billion light years from Earth in 2019, according to researchers at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

From late August to the beginning of September in 2019, more than 100 bursts were detected from FRB 121102, one of the known sources of such phenomena. This is the highest number of bursts ever detected.