Searching for alien lifeforms
BY wangxingwei from 21st Century
Published 2020-05-11
FAST is the biggest single-dish radio telescope in the world. ASIA NEWS

Are you curious of looking up at the stars and wondering if there’s intelligent life out there? So is Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, China’s mega-science project and the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope.

On April 28, FAST, nicknamed “China’s Eye of Heaven”, embarked on its search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

As the news went viral on social networking sites, someone commented saying: “Do not answer! Do not answer! Do not Answer!”

It seems that The Three-Body Problem, a science fiction novel by Chinese author Liu Cixin, has influenced minds so deeply that people are worried about the possibility of the Earth being invaded by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization.

That worry is, at least for now, unnecessary. Of the 1,800 planets that have been discovered, less than 20 are capable of supporting life, and the nearest among them, Gliese 581, is 20.4 light-years away.

According to Robin Hanson’s Great Filter theory, there is less than a one in a million chance of any extraterrestrial life form evolving into higher intelligence or a civilization. And since their distance from China could even be millions or billions of light-years away, if they travel at the speed of light, it would take them at least millions of years to reach us.

However, that does not mean FAST’s job is meaningless. As mankind’s most sensitive radio telescope, FAST can best collect signals from the universe. Researchers can distinguish even a 4 Hz difference in the signals received, meaning it can best distinguish between manmade and ET-made signals. Even the signals from a non-ET civilization are useful, because they might contain some hidden information leading to the discovery of new stars or planets.

With FAST joining the cause, mankind can browse the universe more deeply than ever before and increase knowledge about the universe. And whatever it achieves is the best evidence of China’s advanced technology in astronomy and the study of the universe.

(Translator & Editor: Wang Xingwei AND Ji Yuan)
Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope  FAST, 500米口径球面射电望远镜
Mega-science  大科学
Extraterrestrial intelligence  ET, 外星生物
Went viral  走红
Three-Body Problem  《三体》
Invaded  入侵
Evolving  进化
Sensitive  敏感的
Browse  搜索
Astronomy  天文学