A telescope located in China, called FAST (Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope), while designed specifically as a traditional radio telescope, has been theorized to be able to detect far more than just FRBs (fast radio bursts) and other cosmic phenomena.
(Photo : Ou Dongqu/Xinhua via Getty Images )
PINGTANG, March 31, 2021 -- Aerial photo taken on March 31, 2021 shows China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope FAST under maintenance in southwest China's Guizhou Province. China's FAST officially opened to the world starting Wednesday.
According to Universe Today, the FAST telescope has the capability to detect so-called Von Neumann probes, a term used to describe self-replicating alien space probes, several light years away from the sun.
A wave of new calculations convinced Dr. Zaza Osmanov, from the Free University of Tbilisi in Georgia, that the FAST telescope could see these Von Neumann probes in the radio spectral band.
As a radio telescope by design, FAST's focus is to observe this specific band for anything interesting in the cosmos.
Dr. Osmanov, however, wants something far more interesting than things like FRBs; 1600 of which were just detected by FAST recently, reports SlashGear.
The only problem that he faces now is that Von Neumann probes, while already a staple of science fiction, are still not proven to exist because of the massive technological requirements to make them.
What Is a Von Neumann Probe, Anyway?
As previously mentioned, a Von Neumann probe refers to a type of alien spacecraft or space probe that has the ability to self-replicate, and often moves in swarms like insects.
(Photo : Getty Images )
According to Futurism, the self-replicating technology of a Von Neumann probe can be used to explore something as big as an entire galaxy in a very short period.
In other words, Von Neumann probes are technically nanotech spaceships which "reproduce" by landing on any astronomical body they could find (i.e. an asteroid), mining the materials necessary to make more of itself, and then further spreading out into the cosmos.
How Will the FAST Telescope Detect These Probes?
Dr. Osmanov's calculations indicate that the FAST radio telescope will be able to detect these probes using two benchmarks: the concept of Kardashev civilizations, and the amount of thermal and electromagnetic energies that Von Neumann probe swarms might emit.
For this article, we'll focus on the emissions.
No matter how advanced these self-replicating machines might be, Dr. Osmanov still believes they're "imperfect" enough to emit some kind of radiation as they go around the cosmos making more of themselves.
Light Years Upon Light Years
The FAST telescope is one of the most powerful of its kind. If its expected sensitivity works out, then it could theoretically detect Von Neumann swarms within 16,000 light years, provided they're from a so-called Type II alien civilization (a civilization advanced enough to harness the energy of their parent star).
As for the most advanced type of alien civilizations (Type III, or galactic level tech), the FAST telescope can detect the swarms within 400 million light years. This distance covers most galaxies which are considered "close" to the Milky Way itself.
Written by RJ Pierce