A new and extraordinarily powerful radio telescope in Canada has started listening to the sounds of the Universe, to give scientists a better understanding of the history of the cosmos. The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, will get data through radio bursts from pulsars and gravitational waves. It will also be able to listen to ripples in space time, which scientists confirmed the existence of back in 2016.
In terms of its design, one might confuse it for a collection of four 100-meter long skateboarding halfpipes. However, it is anything but. The radio telescope was completed over seven years, allowing it to hear even the weakest signals from the universe and to collect one terabyte of data per second throughout the day. To put it into perspective, CHIME compresses the data it gathers by a factor of 100,000 before saving files on disks as 1TB per second can become overwhelming. This also means that it is constantly creating a massive 3D map of the universe or space.
When a team of 50 Canadian scientists from different institutions, including the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), initially conceptualized about such a project, there was yet to be a system that could actually handle such huge amount of information. However, a system capable of this now exists because of advances in video game hardware.
As it has recently become operational, CHIME is ready to work in achieving its objective of measuring the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. Getting an accurate measurement of the expansion will help scientists determine what causes it, and confirm if its a mysterious form of energy thought to be permeating space, called “dark energy.”
According to Dr. Mark Halper from the University of British Columbia, the CHIME telescope will help “measure the expansion of the universe.” He also expects the telescope to further the team’s understanding of the mysterious dark energy that drives expansion ever faster, as this is a fundamental part of physics that scientists are yet to understand and remain a deep mystery. He also explains that the research is about “better understanding how the universe began and what lies ahead.”