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When completed in 2017, the instrument will map the 21-cm signature of neutral hydrogen within the largest volume of space ever surveyed, encompassing a three-dimensional swath of the Universe that covers half the sky and is billions of light-years deep.
The nearest edge of this vast volume of space will be billions of light-years closer to Earth than the farthest edge. That means CHIME will add yet another dimension—time—to produce a “four-dimensional map” of the expansion and evolution of the Universe over some four billion years of its early history.
This epoch is particularly interesting because it was a time when dark energy began to play an important role in the evolution of the Universe. Dark energy is the enigmatic force behind one of the biggest paradigm shifts in cosmology: that the expansion of the Universe is speeding up, rather than slowing down.
With additional back-end instruments CHIME/Pulsar and CHIME/FRB, the experiment will also be an excellent detector of radio pulsars and the newly recognized phenomenon of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).
Construction of the four, 20×100-metre half-cylinders that comprise the structure of CHIME proper was completed in 2015. Arranged side-by-side, the array equals the area of six NHL-size hockey rinks. Construction of the super-computer “back-end” of CHIME continues.
CHIME is designed to gather radio signals along the meridian—the line in the sky running between due north and due south on the horizon, and the zenith. The array won’t move, but as the Earth rotates and the sky moves overhead from east to west, CHIME will scan the entire northern sky.
The collaboration includes researchers from the University of Toronto, the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, the University of British Columbia, and the University of McGill. CHIME/FRB and CHIME/Pulsar include the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Perimeter Institute as collaborating institutions.
At the University of Toronto, members include researchers from the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, and the Dunlap Institute; within the Dunlap, the collaboration includes Prof. Keith Vanderlinde, as well as postdocs and grad students in the Long Wavelength Laboratory.
Unveiling the Radio Cosmos; Nature, February 2017
‘Half-pipe’ Telescope Will Probe Dark Energy in Teen Universe; Nature News & Comment, July 2015
Canadian Scientists Try to Shed Light on Dark Energy; Globe & Mail, Jan. 2013
Image: Dr. Peter Klages; Dunlap Institute; CHIME