01:27 - Source: CNN
Chinese telescope could detect extraterrestrial life

Story highlights

New radio telescope will be the world's largest when operational

"Sky Eye" will be able to search distant galaxies for radio signals and extraterrestrial life

FAST telescope plays key role in China's bold space program

Hong Kong CNN —  

Is there anybody out there?

A massive engineering and scientific project in China is expected to take us one step closer in our quest to discover if we are truly alone in the universe.

The country’s military-led space program is constructing the world’s largest radio telescope, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, and Chinese state media recently released images of the amazing structure nearing completion.

The massive construction project – when completed the dish itself will be the size of 30 football pitches – has the potential to be a game-changer for our understanding of the universe, and our search for life on other planets.

When it is finished it will potentially be able to detect radio signals – and potentially, signs of life – from planets orbiting a million stars and solar systems.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency says FAST will be completed in 2016 – allowing researchers to detect radio signals from as far as tens of billions of light years away.

Nan Rendong, chief scientist of the FAST project, told Xinhua that the huge dish will enable much more accurate detection.

“A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to tell meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe. It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm,” he said.

READ: China: The next space superpower?

Advancing astronomy