Professor Avi Loeb, head of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University, believes that the first message that humanity will receive from an extraterrestrial civilization will be a spaceship. As it turns out, such a message has already been sent in the form of an unusual extraterrestrial probe called 1I/Oumuamua.
Oumuamua is a mysterious object crossing the solar system. It was discovered in 2017 by Robert Verick thanks to the special Pan-STARRS program. At the time, the unknown celestial body was 30 million kilometers from Earth. Initially, it was thought to be a comet, but during further observations, Oumuamua was classified as an asteroid. The object did not cease to amaze scientists – it turned out that it demonstrates non-gravitational acceleration, and the physical properties of its surface resemble those of a comet nucleus.
Scientists say that Oumuamua is so unusual that it cannot be a work of nature. Today, many are convinced that Oumuamua is a spaceship sent by an extraterrestrial civilization.
Professor Loeb draws his conclusions based on several unusual features of this object. The first oddity is that the length of the cigar-shaped object is 5-10 times greater than its width, and this simply does not happen in nature. Also confusing is its extreme brightness – at least 10 times brighter than normal rocky asteroids and comets. Oumuamua’s mode of travel is also unusual.
Professor Loeb’s team evaluated Oumuamua’s atypical features and concluded on this basis that it must be the creation of an alien civilization. But not all scientists agree with such interpretation and try to explain the phenomenon in another way.
But Oumuamua is not the only guest that appeared at such a relatively short distance from the sun. Last year, astronomers spotted a second object known as Comet 2I/Borisov. Scientists believe that humanity should be prepared for more such unusual visitors.
And China will make the telescope available to anyone who wants to get a handle on the issue.
FAST is a giant 500-meter aperture radio telescope located in China’s Guizhou province. Its purpose is to detect hydrogen in the Milky Way galaxy, to search for pulsars and variable stars, and for extraterrestrial life. From April 1, 2021, 10 percent of the observing time will be given to scientists from other countries.
The FAST radio telescope began operation shortly before the similar Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico was destroyed. FAST was officially commissioned in 2016. It has already detected 240 pulsars since it began operation, including one that makes 316 revolutions per second.
FAST is the world’s largest radio telescope, but Russia’s RATAN-600 is as much as 76 meters larger in diameter. Huge diameters of radio telescope antennas are necessary to collect signals from the farthest reaches of space because radio waves sent by galaxies, stars, and planets reach the Earth very poorly due to their remoteness.
Although the FAST antenna has a diameter of 500 m, the effective area is only 300 m in diameter. This is because the telescope’s mirrors, like the 30-ton receiver, are movable. Because of this, FAST can be pointed at any part of the sky within 40 degrees of the zenith.