Canada’s New Radio Telescope Starts Mapping The Universe

The largest radio telescope in the country, CHIME, was inaugurated near Kaleden, British Columbia. Its goal is to better understand three boundaries of current astronomy: the history of the Universe, the nature of distant stars and the detection of gravitational waves.

Federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan was on the scene for the occasion and posed the last piece of the new instrument.

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) was developed by some 50 scientists at the University of British Columbia, McGill University in Montreal and the University of Toronto, as well as Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO).

Go back in time

The new instrument will help astrophysicists measure the expansion of the universe in its history, and it could help to better understand the mysterious dark energy that accelerates this expansion even further.

It all comes down to discovering how the Universe was born and what the future holds for it.

Mark Halpern, University of British Columbia

CHIME will also study the rapid radio bursts. At present, the origin of these strange extragalactic incidents remains unknown. Since their discovery ten years ago, only about twenty bursts have been recorded.

The CHIME telescope will probably detect much more every day. A treasure trove of data that will put Canada at the forefront of research in this area.

Victoria Kaspi, McGill University

Studying gravitational waves

It will also make it possible to study the gravitational waves, which make space-time waver and which were detected for the first time only last year , confirming the last element of Einstein’s theory on general relativity.

The CHIME radio telescope occupies a space equivalent to that of five NHL ice rinks. Photo: CHIME
The CHIME radio telescope occupies a space equivalent to that of five NHL ice rinks. Photo: CHIME

Unmatched power

CHIME is a new type of telescope made up of four cylindrical reflectors borrowing the shape of a half pipe and resembling skateboard ramps. The space the device occupies is equivalent to size of five NHL ice rinks.

A supercomputer will process the captured electromagnetic waves and assemble a digital image of the sky, one piece at a time. Its power will also allow us to do things that researchers believed to be unrealizable so far, such as looking in many directions at once or performing several experiments at the same time.

The telescope’s computer is able to perform seven quadrillions of operations per second, that is, as much as if each inhabitant of the Earth solved one million multiplications every second.

This telescope cost only $ 16 million. By comparison, the ALMA telescope network in Chile, inaugurated in 2013, cost about $ 1.4 billion.

It was set up in the mountains of the Okanagan Valley, home to the Federal Observatory of Radioastrophysics.

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Benjamin Diaz

About the Author: Benjamin Diaz

Benjamin Diaz started working for Debate Report in 2017. Ben grew up in a small town in northern Ontario. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife a year later. Benhas been a proud Torontonian for the past 10 years. He covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for CTV News and the Huffington Post Canada.

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