Chinese Radio Telescope FAST Has Discovered 500 Pulsars

On Wednesday, the Chinese Academy of Sciences held a press conference to provide updates on the operation of the country’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), and to discuss a series of its important scientific achievements. Since its establishment, FAST’s operation efficiency and quality have been continuously improved, and it has reached an annual observation time of over 5,300 hours. Up to now, FAST has discovered about 500 pulsars, making it the world’s most efficient device in terms of the discovery of pulsars since its operation.

Neutral hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and is also one of the best tracers of material distribution at different scales.

The international cooperation team led by Qing Daochong and Li Yi of the National Astronomical Observatory of Chinese Academy of Sciences adopted the original neutral hydrogen narrow-line self-absorption method and obtained the high-confidence Zeeman effect measurement results in the nuclear cladding of protostars for the first time using FAST, which provided important observational evidence for solving the magnetic flux problem, one of the three classic problems regarding the formation of stars.

Fast radio burst (FRB) is the brightest radio burst phenomenon in the universe, although its precise origin remains unknown. It is one of the latest hot topics in astronomy.

The international cooperation team led by Li Yi, Wang Pei and Zhu Weiwei of the National Astronomical Observatory used FAST to observe the fast radio burst FRB121102. In about 50 days, they detected 1652 bursts and obtained the largest sample of fast radio bursts so far, which exceeded the total number of bursts published in all previous articles in this field. The team also revealed the complete energy spectrum and bimodal structure of fast radio bursts for the first time.

The discovery of pulsars is one of the main scientific goals of the observations using major international radio telescopes.

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In less than two years, 279 pulsars have been newly discovered by FAST’s major priority project – the Galactic Pulsar Snapshot Survey (GPPS) led by Han Jinlin of the National Astronomical Observatory – of which 65 are millisecond pulsars and 22 are in binary star systems.

Additionally, in March 2021, FAST officially opened for global sharing. 27 international projects from 14 countries (excluding China) have been approved, and relevant scientific observations have begun.

Wu Xiangping, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatory, revealed that considerations are underway to open 1% of FAST’s observation time to primary and secondary school students nationwide. “Primary and secondary school students can put forward good scientific ideas and professional astronomers will help them realize them,” Wu said.