Reports are suggesting that China might have the potential to make first contact with alien life, thanks to a new radio dish and telescope that stands out for its highly advanced features and the fact that it is the largest in the world.
As reported by The Atlantic in its December, 2017, issue, the 500-meter aperture spherical telescope (FAST) measures twice as wide as the dish in Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, easily masking it the largest in the world. Although it’s worth noting that the dish is capable of detecting spy satellites even when not actively broadcasting, The Atlantic stressed that the instrument’s main purpose is to serve as our planet’s first “flagship observatory” specially made to listen for possible messages from extraterrestrial life. In other words, if there is really something or someone out there, China has the potential to be the first to confirm it.
Although such reports cannot be reliably corroborated, there have been several claims of Chinese UFO sightings, including one earlier this month that was purportedly spotted near the Great Wall of China and detailed in a Sunday Express report. And while such alleged sightings might sound harmless, science fiction writer Liu Cixin warned of the risks that China may face if it makes first contact with aliens. According to The Atlantic, the so-called “appearance of this Other” might be coming soon, and might herald the extinction of humanity.
“Perhaps in ten thousand years, the starry sky that humankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent,” wrote Liu in the postscript of one of his science fiction novel.
“But perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit.”
— Emma Green (@emmaogreen) November 9, 2017
Those risks aside, The Atlantic stressed that China’s prospects for being the first country to possibly make first contact with alien life have been quite good for some time. In the 1980s, Chinese political leader Deng Xiaoping used his “near-religious reverence” for science and technology to ramp up the country’s initiatives to catch up with Western nations in those areas. Recent years have seen China catching up with the United States and being on pace to outspend the U.S. on research and development this decade. But even with all these efforts in mind, The Atlantic added that Chinese research has tended to be hit-or-miss, with one study claiming that about a third of the country’s scientific papers were either plagiarized or have dubious content.
Those concerns haven’t made China’s possible best bet for making first contact any less noteworthy. According to Newsweek, the Chinese government offered a $1.9 million grant to the qualified individual who would serve as the site’s chief director of scientific operation and oversee projects that use the radio telescope.
Explaining how radio telescopes work, Newsweek wrote that these instruments search for electromagnetic energy sources, specifically looking for these sources via signals that emanate from space. While there’s no guarantee that such signals can prove alien life, the publication added that there are other reasons scientists may be searching for them, including research on planets and stars outside of ours.
Aside from FAST, China has other plans relating to its hopes of making first contact with aliens. According to The Atlantic, these include a radio observatory the country hopes to set up on the dark side of the moon, allowing it to sit in an area that is “more technologically silent than anywhere on Earth.” There’s also another potential dish site located in China’s Karst mountains that could eliminate wind and radio noise and help relay clearer signals because of the mountain range’s “tall [and] jagged” environment.
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