“Heavenly Eye” also known as “The Eye of Heaven” is China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, which began its work one year ago.
Now, FAST (the size of about 30 football fields) has identified several pulsars, according to the National Astronomical Observatories of China.
It was the first time a radio telescope independently developed by Chinese scientists has found pulsars.
Xinhua News Agency reports that two of the pulsars, named J1859-01 and J1931-01, are 16,000 light years and 4,100 light years from Earth with rotation periods of 1.83 seconds and 0.59 seconds, respectively.
The discovery was later confirmed by the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.
Astronomers are able to use FAST to survey hydrogen in the Milky Way and other galaxies, detect thousands of new pulsars and study the origin and evolution of the universe.
Over 2,700 pulsars have been identified since the first one was discovered by British astronomers Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish on Nov 28, 1967. But almost all of them are within the scope of the Milky Way.
Many scientists expect FAST to be the first telescope to capture a pulsar outside the galaxy.
Technical preparations have been made for FAST to search for pulsars outside the Milky Way as early as next year.
FAST is believed to be the world’s most sensitive radio telescope. Engineers have said it is so sensitive it could capture the signal of a cell phone being used on the moon. Before the completion of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope, funded by a consortium of countries, FAST will remain the global leader for the next 10 to 20 years.
The telescope is expected to discover twice the number of pulsars currently known and it is highly likely to make breakthroughs in the study of gravitational waves and general relativity theory, said Sun Caihong, its deputy chief technologist.
FAST’s other tasks include exploration of interstellar molecules and communication signals, as well as building an accurate picture of the universe.