China's Newly Completed FAST Now World's Largest Radio Telescope

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2016 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: seti, science, radio telescope

The Chinese officially began searching the stars around noon local time on Sunday using the newly completed FAST radio telescope which has surpassed Arecibo in being the world's largest single aperture telescope. Nestled in the natural Dawodang (limestone) depression in the remote and mountainous Pingtang county, Guizhou province, the Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) will search the heavens to catalog pulsars, investigate dark matter, gravitational waves, and fast radio bursts, and assist in the search for extraterrestrial life and natural hydrogen in distant galaxies.

The $180 million project has been in development for 14 years with construction beginning in 2011. The massive scientific endeavor required the relocation of several villages and 10,000 people living in the vicinity. Further, the remote area required the telescope to be constructed without the use of heavy machinery and the dish had to be constructed manually. FAST is modeled after the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico and uses 4,450 triangular reflector panels supported by a steel mesh suspended over the limestone valley using large steel towers anchored to the surrounding hills. FAST deviates from Arecibo when it comes to reflecting and receiving radio signals, however. While Arecibo uses a 900 ton movable receiver with a complex set of mirrors that make up a sub reflector, FAST uses 2,250 actuators (winches) that pull on up to 300m sections of the dish to create a parabola that can move in real time to track signals as the Earth rotates and reflect them back to the receiver which is reportedly much lighter and can contain more instruments than Arecibo.

While Arecibo, with its 305 meter dish, can track signals up to 20° from the zenith, FAST can track signals up to 26° from the zenith at 300 meter parabola sizes and up to 40° with smaller parabola sizes making it rather versatile. The massive dish combines the benefits of a large single fixed dish and a smaller dish (or dishes which could be combined to provide higher resolution using interferometry) that can tilt and rotate.

Specifically, Dennis Normile quoted experts in saying:

Single dishes excel at observing point sources like neutron stars and at scanning a multitude of frequencies in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, says astronomer Li Di, a FAST project scientist, who previously worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Another advantage is that, compared with the multiple dishes in an array, single dishes are “relatively cheap and relatively straightforward to upgrade,” says George Hobbs, an astronomer at CSIRO. “You just keep building better receivers.” (Dennis Normile at Science Magazine)

FAST is quite the accomplishment and I am interested to see what the scientists are able to discover using the world's largest radio telescope. Hopefully it will continue to receive adequate funding!

Also read:

SETI and PayPal are set to invent Space Bucks

Subject: General Tech | June 27, 2013 - 01:41 PM |
Tagged: seti, paypal

Space tourism already exists for the obscenely rich and famous but will likely become more common over the next decade thanks to programs like the X PRIZE.  PayPal sees this as an opportunity to create an international currency that would be accepted in orbit and perhaps one day even beyond the Lagrange Points.  The SETI institute is mentioned in the article at The Inquirer but it is not clear what involvement they had; it would be nice if accumulated BOINC work units would count towards your intergalactic bank account.  It will be a while before you have to worry about how to tip your bellhop in orbit but it looks like you might be using PayPal to do it.

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"ONLINE PAYMENT FIRM Paypal is working with the SETI Institute on currency that can be used for space commerce.

Who knows what is wrong with real money for commerce? As far as we know people are not trading in space, and no one has ever asked for change for a Martian dollar. Paypal and SETI are hoping to solve this problem before it appears with the launch of Paypal Galactic."

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Source: The Inquirer

SETI@Home rises again with the reopening of the Allen Telescope Array

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2011 - 11:57 AM |
Tagged: seti, boinc

Last Spring U.C. Berkeley pulled their funding from the SETI Institute which lead to the closure of the Allen Telescope Array, part of the Hat Creek Observatory.  It has finally reopened and is once again searching the stars for a variety of objects thanks to public donations and interest by the US Air Force.  SETI is not just about searching for radio signals from the stars, it has discovered pulsars and exoplanets as well as contributing to the search for water on other planets. 

The interest shown by the Air Force has less to do with space aliens and more to do with the awareness of near earth objects such as satellites and orbiting ships.  In among the data that would be collected by the array would be positional information of these orbital objects. The extra accuracy would hopefully allow much better predictions as to the time and location that objects falling from orbit will arrive on Earth, such as happened recently

Consider helping out by dropping by the BOINC Forum and joining the PC Perspective SETI@Home team.

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"MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is once again searching planetary systems for signals that would be evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Among its first targets are some of the exoplanet candidates recently discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

“This is a superb opportunity for SETI observations,” said Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute. “For the first time, we can point our telescopes at stars, and know that those stars actually host planetary systems – including at least one that begins to approximate an Earth analog in the habitable zone around its host star. That’s the type of world that might be home to a civilization capable of building radio transmitters.”"

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Source: SETI