gigantic telescope

China’s gigantic telescope detects over 900 new pulsars


China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, has identified more than 900 new pulsars since its launch in 2016, its operator said Wednesday.

Pulsars, or fast-spinning neutron stars, originate from the imploded cores of massive dying stars through supernova explosions.

Han Jinlin, a scientist with the National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), said that the pulsars included over 120 binary pulsars, more than 170 millisecond pulsars, and 80 faint and intermittent pulsars.

Han added that over the past 50-plus years since the discovery of the first pulsar, less than 3,000 pulsars were discovered worldwide, and the number of new pulsars discovered by FAST is more than three times the total number of pulsars found by foreign telescopes during the same period.

“The study has important implications for understanding the dense remnants of dead stars in the Milky Way and their radiation characteristics,” Han said.

Pulsar observation is an important task for FAST, which can be used to confirm the existence of gravitational radiation and black holes, and help find answers to many other major questions in physics.

Jiang Peng, chief engineer of the FAST, said that all staff members make every effort to improve the performance of the telescope. At present, the annual observation time of the telescope is about 5,300 hours, and it plays an important role in the continuous output of scientific research achievements.

Located in a deep and round karst depression in southwest China’s Guizhou Province, FAST started formal operation in January 2020. It is believed to be the world’s most sensitive radio telescope.