World's largest single-dish radio telescope has detected two pulsars during the first year of its trial, according to a report by China's Xinhua news agency.
The enormous telescope, dubbed Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope or FAST, detected multiple pulsar candidates, many of which have been confirmed by international organisations. It has been operational since September 2016.
Pulsars are fast-spinning neutron stars or white dwarfs formed with the gravitational collapse of massive stars.
These extremely dense cosmic objects have strong magnetic fields, which emit jets of particles along poles, producing radio waves or powerful beams of light. As the neutron star spins, the magnetic field spins with it, sweeping the beam of light through space.
In August itself, FAST spotted two pulsars thousands of light years away. The first one, named J1859-01, is 16,000 light from Earth, while the second, J1931-01, is 4,100 light years away. The observations were confirmed by the Parkes radio telescope in Australia a month later.
The deputy director of the project, Peng Bo welcomed the results considering the scale at which FAST operates. "It is truly encouraging to have achieved such results within just one year," said Peng while noting that a telescope of this size (its receiving area equals to 30 football fields) usually requires three to five years of trial before making such discoveries.
Detecting pulsars could provide scientists new insights into the universe or objects these waves passed through.
Interestingly, FAST is now being prepped to observe pulsars from outside the galaxy. All pulsars detected to date have been from the Milky Way and extragalactic observations from the super-sensitive telescope could help scientists learn about the particles in the space between galaxies. Scientists also expect to capture interstellar communication signals providing signs of the existence of alien life once it is fully operational.