In China, Zhang was tirelessly lobbying Chinese authorities to access FAST for his own research. Only recently was he granted the ability to use the telescope through the National Astronomical Observatories’ association.
Initially, Zhang and his students had to conduct their observations at FAST while the telescope observed other targets, not allowing him to choose the areas he wanted. But after collaborating with Werthimer and students from the SETI Research Center on a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, Chinese officials eventually allowed Zhang a window of time with the telescope to shortlist specific solar systems that he and his collaborators believe can most likely harbor intelligent life. Over the next few months, the telescope will be trained on coordinates Zhang provided.
The SETI community has focussed heavily on scanning for unnatural radio signals. The harsh reality is that they’ve yet to find anything substantially out of the ordinary that would indicate alien technology. Zhang will use this same method in China, but he hopes that with the power of the FAST telescope, they may have a better chance.
“Our telescope is able to identify and observe many solar systems that others can not,” Zhang said. “And many of them have the ingredients for emerging life. If it is out there, we will probably be the first to find it.”Ryan Sprague, “China’s SETI Program Will Find Alien Life First, Says Chinese Astronomer” at The DeBrief
Whether either of them ever find anything or not, it will be an interesting race to watch.