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Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) is an interferometric radio telescope at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada which consists of four 100 x 20 metre semi-cylinders (roughly the size and shape of snowboarding half-pipes) populated with 1024 dual-polarization radio receivers sensitive at 400–800 MHz. The telescope's low-noise amplifiers are built with components adapted from the cellphone industry and its data are processed using a custom-built FPGA electronic system and 1000-processor high-performance GPGPU cluster.[1] The telescope has no moving parts and observes half of the sky each day as the Earth turns.

Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment
CHIME experiment construction - 2015-07-16.jpg
CHIME under construction in July, 2015
ObservatoryDominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory Edit this on Wikidata
Location(s)Okanagan Falls, Canada Edit this at Wikidata
Coordinates49°19′16″N 119°37′26″W / 49.321°N 119.624°W / 49.321; -119.624Coordinates: 49°19′16″N 119°37′26″W / 49.321°N 119.624°W / 49.321; -119.624 Edit this at Wikidata
OrganizationDominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory
McGill University
University of British Columbia
University of Toronto Edit this on Wikidata
Altitude545 m (1,788 ft) Edit this at Wikidata
Wavelength37 cm (810 MHz)-75 cm (400 MHz)
Built2015 Edit this on Wikidata–August 2017 Edit this on Wikidata (2015 Edit this on Wikidata–August 2017 Edit this on Wikidata) Edit this at Wikidata
First light7 September 2017 Edit this on Wikidata
Telescope styleParabolic reflector
Radio telescope
Zenith telescope Edit this on Wikidata
Number of telescopesEdit this on Wikidata
Length100 m (328 ft 1 in) Edit this at Wikidata
Width20 m (65 ft 7 in) Edit this at Wikidata
Collecting area8,000 m2 (86,000 sq ft) Edit this at Wikidata Edit this at Wikidata
Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment is located in Canada
Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment
Location of Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment

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. A first light ceremony was held on 7 September 2017 to inaugurate the commissioning phase.


Science goalsEdit


One of the biggest puzzles in contemporary cosmology is why the expansion of the Universe is accelerating.[2] About seventy percent of the Universe today consists of so-called dark energy that counteracts gravity's attractive force and causes this acceleration. Very little is known about what dark energy is. CHIME will make precise measurements of the acceleration of the Universe to improve the knowledge of how dark energy behaves. The experiment is designed to observe the period in the Universe's history during which the standard ΛCDM model predicts that dark energy began to dominate the energy density of the Universe and when decelerated expansion transitioned to acceleration.

CHIME will make other observations in addition to its main, cosmological purpose. CHIME's daily survey of the sky will enable study of our own Milky Way galaxy in radio frequencies, and is expected to improve the understanding of galactic magnetic fields.[3]

It will also help other experiments to calibrate measurements of radio waves from rapidly spinning neutron stars, which researchers hope to use to detect gravitational waves.[1]

Radio transientsEdit

CHIME will be used for discovering and monitoring pulsars and other radio transients; a specialised instrument is being developed for these science objectives. CHIME will detect the mysterious extragalactic fast radio bursts (FRBs) that last just milliseconds and have no well established astrophysical explanation.[1]


The instrument is a hybrid semi-cylindrical interferometer designed to measure the large scale neutral hydrogen power spectrum across the redshift range 0.8 to 2.5. The power spectrum will be used to measure the baryon acoustic oscillation (BAO) scale across this redshift range where dark energy becomes a significant contributor to the evolution of the Universe.[3]

CHIME is sensitive to the 21 cm radio waves emitted by clouds of neutral hydrogen in distant galaxies, and is sensitive to the red shifted waves. By measuring the distribution of the hydrogen in the Universe—a technique known as intensity mapping—CHIME will make a 3D map of the large-scale structure of the Universe between redshifts of 0.8 and 2.5, when the Universe was between about 2.5 and 7 billion years old. CHIME will thus map over 3% of the total observable volume of the Universe, substantially more than has been achieved by large-scale structure surveys to date, during an epoch when the Universe is largely unobserved.[3] Maps of large-scale structure can be used to measure the expansion history of the Universe because sound waves in the early Universe, or baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO), have left slight overdensities in the distribution of matter on scales of about 500 million light-years. This characteristic BAO scale has been well-measured by experiments like Planck and can therefore be used as a 'standard ruler' to determine the size of the Universe as a function of time, thereby indicating the expansion rate.[4]

BAO measurements to date have been made by observing the distribution of galaxies on the sky. While future experiments, like The Dark Energy Survey, Euclid and the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), will continue using this technique, CHIME is a pioneer in using the radio emission of hydrogen rather than the starlight as a tracer of structure for detecting BAO. Although CHIME cannot be used for the same auxiliary science that galaxy surveys excel at, for BAO measurement CHIME represents a very cost-effective alternative as individual galaxies do not need to be observed.


The choice to use a few elongated reflectors rather than many circular dishes is unusual but not original to CHIME: other examples of semi-cylindrical telescopes are the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope in Australia and the Northern Cross Radio Telescope in Italy. This design was chosen for CHIME as a cost-effective way of arranging close-packed radio antennas so that the telescope can observe the sky at a wide range of angular scales. Using multiple, parallel semi-cylinders gives comparable resolution along both axes of the telescope.

The antennas are custom-designed for CHIME to have good response in the 400 to 800 MHz range in two linear polarisations. Signal from the antennas are amplified in two stages that make use of technology developed by the cell-phone industry. This allows CHIME to keep the analogue chain at relatively low noise while still being affordable.[5]

CHIME is operated as a correlator, meaning that the inputs from all the antennas are combined so that the entire system operates as one system. This requires considerable computing power. The analogue signals are digitised at 800 MHz and processed using a combination of custom-built field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) circuit boards [6] and graphics processing units (GPU). The Pathfinder has a fully functional correlator made from these units, and has demonstrated that consumer-grade GPU technology provides sufficient processing power for CHIME at a fraction of the price of other radio correlators.[3][7][8][9]


The CHIME Pathfinder telescope, a prototype for the full CHIME telescope.

In 2013, the CHIME Pathfinder telescope was built, also at DRAO.[10] It is a smaller-scale version of the full instrument, consisting of two, 36 x 20 metre semi-cylinders populated by 128 dual-polarization antennas, and is currently being used as a testbed for CHIME technology and observing techniques. Additionally, the Pathfinder will also be capable of making an initial measurement of the baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO) with the intensity mapping technique and will become a useful telescope in its own right.

Construction of CHIME began in 2015 at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) near Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. In November 2015, CHIME was reported to be "nearly operational", requiring the installation of receivers,[11] and construction of the super-computer.[12] In March 2016 the contract for the processing chips was placed.[13]

CHIME construction ended in August 2017. A first light ceremony with Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan was held on 7 September 2017 to inaugurate the commissioning phase.[14][15][16] The science operations commenced in late September 2018,[17] and began to detect several events within its first week.[18] One of its early discoveries was the second repeating FRB to be observed, FRB 180814.[19] CHIME is so sensitive it is expected to eventually detect dozens of FRBs per day.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Castelvecchi, Davide (2015). "'Half-pipe' telescope will probe dark energy in teen Universe". Nature. 523 (7562): 514. Bibcode:2015Natur.523..514C. doi:10.1038/523514a. PMID 26223607. Retrieved 2015-07-29.
  2. ^ Andreas Albrecht; et al. (2006). "Report of the Dark Energy Task Force". arXiv:astro-ph/0609591.
  3. ^ a b c d Kevin Bandura; et al. (2014). "Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) Pathfinder". Proceedings of SPIE. 9145. arXiv:1406.2288. doi:10.1117/12.2054950.
  4. ^ Seo, Hee-Jong; Eisenstein, Daniel J. (2003). "Probing Dark Energy with Baryonic Acoustic Oscillations from Future Large Galaxy Redshift Surveys" (PDF). The Astrophysical Journal. 598 (2): 720–740. arXiv:astro-ph/0307460. Bibcode:2003ApJ...598..720S. doi:10.1086/379122.
  5. ^ Laura Newburgh; et al. (2014). "Calibrating CHIME, A New Radio Interferometer to Probe Dark Energy". Proceedings of SPIE. 9145. arXiv:1406.2267. doi:10.1117/12.2056962.
  6. ^ Bandura, Kevin; et al. (2016). "ICE: a scalable, low-cost FPGA-based telescope signal processing and networking system". J. Astron. Inst. 5: 1641005. arXiv:1608.06262. Bibcode:2016JAI.....541005B. doi:10.1142/S2251171716410051.
  7. ^ Recnik, Andre; et al. (2015). An Efficient Real-time Data Pipeline for the CHIME Pathfinder Radio Telescope X-Engine. IEEE 26th International Conference on Application-Specific Systems, Architectures and Processors. CFP15063-USB. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. pp. 57–61. arXiv:1503.06189. Bibcode:2015arXiv150306189R. ISBN 978-1-4799-1924-6.
  8. ^ Klages, Peter; et al. (2015). GPU Kernels for High-Speed 4-Bit Astrophysical Data Processing. IEEE 26th International Conference on Application-Specific Systems, Architectures and Processors. CFP15063-USB. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. pp. 164–165. arXiv:1503.06203. Bibcode:2015arXiv150306203K. ISBN 978-1-4799-1924-6.
  9. ^ Denman, Nolan; et al. (2015). A GPU-based Correlator X-engine Implemented on the CHIME Pathfinder. IEEE 26th International Conference on Application-Specific Systems, Architectures and Processors. CFP15063-USB. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. pp. 35–40. arXiv:1503.06202. Bibcode:2015arXiv150306202D. ISBN 978-1-4799-1924-6.
  10. ^ Semeniuk, Ivan (2013-01-27). "Canadian scientists try to shed light on dark energy". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 2015-07-29.
  11. ^ Arstad, Steve (13 November 2015). "Penticton plays host to international astrophysics conference". Infonews. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  12. ^ CHIME, Dunlap Institute. Retrieved: 7 March 2016.
  13. ^ Canada's CHIME telescope taps AMD for GPU-based super. April 2016
  14. ^ Listening for the universe to chime in, Ivan Semeniuk, The Globe and Mail, 2017-09-07
  15. ^ Canadian ingenuity crafts game-changing technology for CHIME telescope, SpaceDaily, 2017-09-11
  16. ^ Murray, Steve (March 22, 2018). "CHIME begins its cosmic search". Astronomy Magazine. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  17. ^ The CHIME Fast Radio Burst Project: System Overview. M. Amiri, K. Bandura, P. Berger, M. Bhardwaj, M. M. Boyce. The Astrophysical Journal. 9 August 2018.
  18. ^ a b radio telescope records mysterious low-frequency bursts from outside our galaxy. Rebecca Joseph, Global News. 3 August 2018.
  19. ^ The CHIME/FRB Collaboration (9 January 2019). "A second source of repeating fast radio bursts". Nature (journal). doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0864-x. Retrieved 9 January 2019.

External linksEdit