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article imageNew Canadian radio telescope opens new doors in astrophysics

By Karen Graham     Aug 5, 2018 in Science
A new radio telescope in British Columbia, Canada is doing its job picking up mysterious signals from deep space known as "fast radio bursts" (FRBs).
This amazing radio telescope allows observers to see bursts of light traveling from galaxies far across the universe. The telescope is housed in an observatory south of Penticton, B.C., at the center of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME.
Construction on CHIME began in 2015, and a first light ceremony with Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan was held on September 7, 2017, to inaugurate CHIME's operational phase.
The revolutionary radio telescope housed in an observatory south of Penticton  B.C.
The revolutionary radio telescope housed in an observatory south of Penticton, B.C.
CHIME is not your typical telescope. It consists of four 100 x 20-meter (328 x 66 feet) semi-cylinders (roughly the size and shape of snowboarding half-pipes) populated with 1024 dual-polarization radio receivers, or antennae, sensitive at 400–800 MHz that can measure fast, short-lived bursts of light found on the radio wave spectrum called fast radio bursts (FRB).
CHIME's low-noise amplifiers are made with components adapted from the cellphone industry. Believe it or not, but the telescope has no moving parts, yet it is able to observe half of the sky each day as the Earth turns.
Solving one of the newer cosmic mysteries
CHIME is a partnership between the University of British Columbia, McGill University, the University of Toronto and the Canadian National Research Council's Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory.
The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment during construction of the parabolic trough refle...
The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment during construction of the parabolic trough reflector at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada.
Mateus A. Fandiño - The CHIME collaboration
As you may imagine, FRBs are only milliseconds long bursts of radio emissions coming from somewhere across the universe. They are actually one of the newer cosmic mysteries out there, having first been discovered about 10 years ago. CHIME has been open less than a year and was built to gather data on FRBs and other unanswered questions.
Astrophysicists have offered up a number of possible explanations for FRBs, including bursts from magnetars, exploding black holes, and yes, even highly advanced alien civilizations.
Detection of FRB 180725A
While still undergoing commissioning, on July 25, 2018, CHIME detected the first-ever FRB at frequencies below 700 MHz. The signal has been designated as FRB 180725A. This is important because the majority of the bursts they previously detected were measured around 1,400 megahertz.
Photo of galaxies.
Photo of galaxies.
Wikipedia Commons
Deborah Good, a UBC Ph.D. student working on the project, explained that while the telescope is extremely sensitive, it’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack using a large magnifying glass. “If you look in the right place, you’ll find it. It’s just hard to figure out where that place is,” she said, according to the Globe and Mail.
"With astronomy, we’re trying to detect something that’s out there and we don’t get to control when it shows up,” said Good, referring to the difficulty of the experiment versus more typical scientific experiments with human control. Good, by the way, dispels the notion the signals could be coming from some sort of life-form.
“There’s a bunch of theories right now, but one thing we’re really confident about is that it’s not aliens,” she said laughing.
More about Astrophysics, chime, British columbia, Universe, Radio telescope