In June 2020, How China would soon transfer much of the processing power of its 500 Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) to searching for an extraterrestrial signal. It now looks like the telescope may have found something as part of China’s contribution to search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
A recently deleted government-sponsored Science and Technology Daily report suggested that its massive Sky Eye telescope may have spotted evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations. The report quoted Zhang Tonjie, chief scientist of a team to search for extraterrestrial civilizations co-founded by Beijing Normal University. , the National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of California, Berkeley.
No one knows why the report was removed, but it was online long enough for other news sources to pick-it up.
Scanning the skies for alien life
In September 2020, it was the same state media outlet that broke the news that FAST would begin scanning the skies for extraterrestrial life amid major updates to reduce interference. Therefore, it seems natural that outlet would report any new activities.
The huge telescope was completed in 2016 after 5 years of construction. Although it has a 500-meter (1,640-foot) aperture, the tool typically only uses a 300-meter (about 984-foot) section at a time to focus on the sky.
In the now-deleted report, Zhang said his team observed 2 sets of suspicious signals in 2020 while examining data-collected in 2019 and found another suspicious signal in 2022 from data acquired from exo-planets.
In 2020, Zhang announced that his team would focus on some “interesting narrowband candidate ET signals” that the SETI project would further study using FAST. However, he specified at the time that the candidate signals are unlikely to originate from intelligent life.
Unsuccessful first attempts
In addition, he warned that in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, it was very unlikely that the project would be successful in yielding tangible results in its first attempts.
Astronomers are constantly picking up distinctive radio signals from distant parts of the universe. In fact, this is how pulsars were discovered for the first time, which spiking the interest of scientists.
There is also the Fermi Paradox, which states that given the number of habitable planets predicted to-exist in the Milky Way alone, we should already have detected signs of other civilizations in extensive cosmos. And yet, thus-far, we have not.
How is that possible? Well, the universe is very big and signals can have a hard time reaching Earth. We may also not have tools that are advanced enough to detect existing signals.
Could China’s FAST telescope solve this problem? Did the tool actually discover something, and if so, why is it keeping it a secret?