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Top global scientists expect FAST to deliver groundbreaking discoveries

By ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai | | Updated: 2021-04-02 13:50
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A bird's-eye view of China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope on March 28, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Some world-leading scientists said that the five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in Guizhou province, which officially opened to the world on Wednesday, may turn out Nobel-level discoveries and they may consider applying for observations.

FAST, the world's most sensitive and largest single-dish radio telescope and currently the only one of its kind allowing astronomers and astrophysicists to observe the deep universe, has invited astronomers from around the world to apply on its website ( for outer-space observations.

Several leading scientists, who are also members of the World Laureates Association, shared their opinions.

Sheldon Glashow

Sheldon Glashow, recipient of Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979:

"FAST may well be the instrument enabling great discoveries, perhaps even those that will earn Nobel Prize or other significant prizes. I'm delighted that FAST has been opened for observers from other nations.

My understanding is that FAST will not have the capability to broadcast powerful signals. In any event, I see no danger even were such a signal to be detected by distant aliens. They are simply too far away to trouble us."

George Smoot III

George Smoot III, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006:

"Nobel prizes come from great ideas and discoveries. When a new detector is brought online and its observations reach far beyond what was known before, then there is a good chance that something new will be discovered.

So with a good team and good programs it is likely that FAST will make many new discoveries. I do think that at least one such discovery or related set of discoveries is likely to result from FAST as long as the team is skilled, works hard and is lucky.

I am not sure that we will apply for time and observations as in the intervening years people have moved on and we have started new research programs. It is still possible we will think of projects to apply to do."

Joseph Taylor Jr.

Joseph Taylor Jr., recipient of Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993:

"Mankind's knowledge of the universe beyond the solar system comes almost entirely from electromagnetic radiation traveling at the speed of light and spanning huge distances.  Human eyes and optical telescopes are sensitive to only a small fraction of the full electromagnetic spectrum.

Radio telescopes like FAST can provide information on the origin and evolution of the universe not obtainable in any other way.

FAST provides astronomical capabilities not available anywhere else in the world. Astronomers and physicists who need those capabilities will surely take advantage of China's generosity in making the tools widely available.

Fundamental science is an enterprise that ideally pays no attention to national boundaries.

FAST does not emit signals, it only receives them. FAST might be able to listen to signals from some extraterrestrial civilization, but it cannot possibly attract their attention."

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