Visit of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, at FAST

On 25th May, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) of National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) was visited by a delegation led by a senior member of the Royal Family of the United Kingdom, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York, who was accompanied by Madame FU Ying, Vice Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress and ex-Ambassador to the U.K. and Mr. LU Yongzheng, Vice Governor of Guizhou Province.

Professor LI Shushen, Vice President of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and President of University of CAS, greeted the Duke of York at FAST Observatory, along with Prof. YAN Jun, Director-General of NAOC, Prof. XUE Suijian,Deputy Director-General of NAOC, and Mr.WANG Zhenyu, the Bureau Leader of Bureau of International Cooperation of CAS.

The Prince proved very curious about astrophysics and cosmology, and how they relate to the potential discoveries that FAST aims to make. He also appeared interested in, and impressed by, the scale and precision of FAST’s technical and engineering aspects. On both astronomical and engineering topics, His Royal Highness asked surprisingly sharp and pertinent questions. The Duke trained as a naval helicopter pilot, and has years of experience as a front-line pilot and as an instructor. Since leaving active service in the Royal Navy, he has spent a great deal of time and effort promoting and encouraging U.K. efforts in science, technology & engineering, and education & skills, so is well-placed to appreciate FAST, which is both an important scientific instrument and a world-leading feat of engineering.

As examples of astronomical questions, the Duke probed “why are pulsars so important?” and “why would it be exciting to discover a pulsar orbiting a black hole?”. Pulsars were discovered in the UK by Jocelyn Bell, which led to the award of a Nobel Prize. Pulsars are intrinsically interesting extreme physical objects. Due to the reliability of the signals that they emit, they can also allow useful probes of other physics. A second Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery of a pulsar in binary orbit which enabled an indirect measurement of gravitational-wave emission. Discovering a pulsar in a close orbit around a black hole could potentially allow exquisite tests of the distortion of space-time close to the event horizon of the black hole. This would be a major development for both astronomy and fundamental physics, and is one of the hoped-for goals of FAST.

The connection between the past UK discovery of pulsars and Chinese hopes to make a major future pulsar discovery made these objects a poetic topic for the discussion.

Also present in the group which welcomed the Duke were two astrophysicists born in the UK: Professor Duncan Lorimer, from the University of Virginia, happened to be making a scientific visit to FAST at the time. Professor Stephen Justham, who obtained supports of the CAS President’s International Fellowship Initiative (PIFI) several times and has been a full professor at the UCAS School of Astronomy and Space Science, also flew down to FAST to welcome the Duke of York.

As he left, His Royal Highness wished the FAST team well, both for finding the objects for which they know they are hunting and for new discoveries beyond our present expectations - the hope that FAST can even find things in the universe which will surprise us.

Pic.1:Prof. Shushen Li, Duke of York and Stephen Justham.

Pic. 2: Talk With the Your Scientist of FAST.


Pic.3: Group Photo.


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