Media Releases

New Canadian telescope will map largest volume of space ever surveyed

September 7, 2017

Toron­to, ON – A Cana­di­an effort to build one of the most inno­v­a­tive radio tele­scopes in the world will open the uni­verse to a new dimen­sion of sci­en­tif­ic study. The Hon­ourable Kirsty Dun­can, Min­is­ter of Sci­ence, today installed the final piece of this new radio tele­scope, which will act as a time machine allow­ing sci­en­tists to cre­ate a three-dimen­sion­al map of the uni­verse extend­ing deep into space and time.

The Cana­di­an Hydro­gen Inten­si­ty Map­ping Exper­i­ment, known as CHIME, is an extra­or­di­nar­i­ly pow­er­ful new tele­scope. The unique “half-pipe” tele­scope design and advanced com­put­ing pow­er will help sci­en­tists bet­ter under­stand the three fron­tiers of mod­ern astron­o­my: the his­to­ry of the uni­verse, the nature of dis­tant stars and the detec­tion of grav­i­ta­tion­al waves

By mea­sur­ing the com­po­si­tion of dark ener­gy, sci­en­tists will bet­ter under­stand the shape, struc­ture and fate of the uni­verse. In addi­tion, CHIME will be a key instru­ment to study grav­i­ta­tion­al waves, the rip­ples in space-time that were only recent­ly dis­cov­ered, con­firm­ing the final piece of Einstein’s the­o­ry of gen­er­al rel­a­tiv­i­ty.

CHIME is a col­lab­o­ra­tion among 50 Cana­di­an sci­en­tists from the Uni­ver­si­ty of British Colum­bia, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, McGill Uni­ver­si­ty, and the Nation­al Research Coun­cil of Cana­da (NRC). The $16-mil­lion invest­ment for CHIME was pro­vid­ed by the Cana­da Foun­da­tion for Inno­va­tion and the gov­ern­ments of British Colum­bia, Ontario, and Que­bec, with addi­tion­al fund­ing from the Nat­ur­al Sci­ences and Engi­neer­ing Research Coun­cil and the Cana­di­an Insti­tute for Advanced Research. The tele­scope is locat­ed in the moun­tains of British Columbia’s Okana­gan Val­ley at the NRC’s Domin­ion Radio Astro­phys­i­cal Obser­va­to­ry near Pen­tic­ton.


“CHIME is an extra­or­di­nary exam­ple show­cas­ing Canada’s lead­er­ship in space sci­ence and engi­neer­ing. The new tele­scope will be a des­ti­na­tion for astronomers from around the world who will work with their Cana­di­an coun­ter­parts to answer some of the most pro­found ques­tions about space. Our gov­ern­ment believes in pro­vid­ing sci­en­tists with the oppor­tu­ni­ties and tools they need to pur­sue the answers to ques­tions that keep them up at night.”

– The Hon­ourable Kirsty Dun­can, Min­is­ter of Sci­ence

“The Nation­al Research Coun­cil works hand-in-hand with acad­e­mia for the advance­ment of knowl­edge in Cana­da. CHIME is a shin­ing exam­ple of what out­comes we can achieve, work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion, for today and tomor­row, for Cana­da and beyond.”

– Mr. Iain Stew­art, Pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Research Coun­cil of Cana­da

“With the CHIME tele­scope we will mea­sure the expan­sion his­to­ry of the uni­verse and we expect to fur­ther our under­stand­ing of the mys­te­ri­ous dark ener­gy that dri­ves that expan­sion ever faster. This is a fun­da­men­tal part of physics that we don’t under­stand and it’s a deep mys­tery. This is about bet­ter under­stand­ing how the uni­verse began and what lies ahead.”

– Dr. Mark Halpern, Uni­ver­si­ty of British Colum­bia

“CHIME’s unique design will enable us to tack­le one of the most puz­zling new areas of astro­physics today – Fast Radio Bursts. The ori­gin of these bizarre extra­galac­tic events is present­ly a mys­tery, with only two dozen report­ed since their dis­cov­ery a decade ago. CHIME is like­ly to detect many of these objects every day, pro­vid­ing a mas­sive trea­sure trove of data that will put Cana­da at the fore­front of this research.”

– Dr. Vic­to­ria Kaspi, McGill Uni­ver­si­ty

“CHIME ‘sees’ in a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent way from oth­er tele­scopes. A mas­sive super­com­put­er is used to process incom­ing radio light and dig­i­tal­ly piece togeth­er an image of the radio sky. All that com­put­ing pow­er also lets us do things that were pre­vi­ous­ly impos­si­ble: we can look in many direc­tions at once, run sev­er­al exper­i­ments in par­al­lel, and lever­age the pow­er of this new instru­ment in unprece­dent­ed ways.”

– Dr. Kei­th Van­der­linde, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to

Quick facts

  • The CHIME tele­scope incor­po­rates four 100-metre long U‑shaped cylin­ders of met­al mesh that resem­ble snow­board half-pipes. Its over­all foot­print is the size of five NHL hock­ey rinks.
  • CHIME col­lects radio waves with wave­lengths between 37 and 75 cen­time­tres, sim­i­lar to the wave­length used by cell phones.
  • Most of the sig­nals col­lect­ed by CHIME come from our Milky Way galaxy, but a tiny frac­tion of these sig­nals start­ed on their way when the uni­verse was between 6 and 11 bil­lion years old.
  • The radio sig­nal from the uni­verse is very weak and extreme sen­si­tiv­i­ty is need­ed to detect it. The amount of ener­gy col­lect­ed by CHIME in one year is equiv­a­lent to the amount of ener­gy gained by a paper clip falling off a desk to the floor.
  • The data rate pass­ing through CHIME is com­pa­ra­ble to all the data in the world’s mobile net­works. There is so much data that it can­not all be saved to disk. It must first be processed and com­pressed by a fac­tor of 100,000.
  • Sev­en quadrillion com­put­er oper­a­tions occur every sec­ond on CHIME. This rate is equiv­a­lent to every per­son on Earth per­form­ing one mil­lion mul­ti­pli­ca­tion prob­lems every sec­ond.

Relat­ed prod­ucts

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Ann Marie Paquet
Press Sec­re­tary
Office of the Hon­ourable Kirsty Dun­can

Media Rela­tions Team
Nation­al Research Coun­cil of Cana­da
613–991-1431 or 1–855-282‑1637 (24/7)
Twit­ter: @nrc_cnrc

Heather Amos
Uni­ver­si­ty of British Colum­bia Pub­lic Affairs

Chris Chipel­lo
McGill Media Rela­tions Office

Chris Sasa­ki
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Co-ordi­na­tor
Dun­lap Insti­tute for Astron­o­my & Astro­physics
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to