A brand new radio telescope in Canada just started searching space for digitized signals that can help the instruments measure the expansion of the universe. The telescope called the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME uses the digitized signals it collects to create a three-dimensional map of hydrogen density to measure the expansion of the universe, according to the CHIME website.
The telescope was developed through a collaboration of 50 scientists from the co-leading universities: University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto and Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. These universities and other universities from across North America will be working together on the telescope and the data it collects.
Originally the telescope was designed to be used for the hydrogen detection and the expansion of the universe but the design ended up being an ideal one for collecting fast radio bursts as well. The telescope can monitor fast radio bursts and is perfect for monitoring pulsars, said the site. It started collecting data on Thursday but it’s unknown when it will record its first fast radio burst. They happen to be rare and difficult to predict, but scientists don’t even know where they come from. The goal with CHIME is to monitor a large swath of sky that can capture the bursts whenever they do occur. As the Earth turns the telescope will be exposed to more of the night sky, meaning it could potentially record a few to a dozen fast radio bursts a night.
The pulses stretch out when they travel through space, so in addition to detection, astronomers are working on a way to recreate the split-second pulse as it occurred, rather than as it was recorded. The telescope will notify other astronomers around the world when it picks up a new chime as well so that they can turn their telescopes to the point where it was detected to hopefully record more data on it, according to a video from McGill University.
The telescope is made of half pipes, kind of like those you’d see at a skate park. Four of these half pipes that are 20 meters by 100 meters each are placed adjacent to one another, making sort of a wave-like structure, rather than one long half pipe. Each of those half pipes has antennas that can collect data on the entire Northern sky as the Earth turns and the shape of the half pipes helps focus the radio waves to those antennas that sit at the center. It’s situated at the DRAO near the border between Washington state and Canada.