Like Fox Mulder, China wants to believe. The country will soon make a significant contribution to the search for extraterrestrial life. State media outlet Science and Technology Daily says the country’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, will begin looking for alien signals in September. The telescope officially went into service for general science in January, but it’s in the midst of getting upgrades that could reduce interference and otherwise help the search.
FAST has a 500-meter (1,640ft) diameter, but it only ever focuses a 300m (984ft) segment on the receiver at any given time. Maybe they will find an alien signal, but not at the expense of science.
Chief scientist Zhang Tongjie stressed that the search shouldn’t interrupt regular science missions. Right now, you probably won’t want to get your hopes up for aliens in the near future. While there are some “interesting narrowband candidate ET signals,” according to Zhang, he didn’t expect any of them to come from intelligent life. Typically, distinctive radio signals come from pulsars or random fast radio bursts. But, if there are aliens broadcasting radio signals and they’re close enough for us to hear them, FAST’s work will increase the chances that we find them.