Canada’s new digital radio telescope is finding many Fast Radio Bursts as planned

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a radio telescope in British Columbia, has detected a fast radio burst (FRB) on July 25, 2018. They detected the first-ever FRB at frequencies below 700 MHz. the signal was named FRB 180725A.

Additional FRBs have been found in the past week at frequencies as low as 400 MHz and early indications suggest they aren’t coming from known sources on Earth.

It is Canada’s biggest radio telescope. It is a joint venture co-led by the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, McGill University and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO). Participating institutions come from across North America.

CHIME is a digital telescope, which means all of its “imaging” is done digitally by software. It uses commercial components: Amplifiers developed for cell phones and graphics cards developed for video game systems power an instrument that cost only $13 million USD ($16 million CAD) to build. General-purpose, programmable computing hardware like this also gives CHIME the flexibility to explore three frontiers of modern astronomy: dark energy, pulsars, and fast radio bursts (FRBs).

It is specially equipped to detect FRBs in the radio spectrum that spans 400 to 800 MHz. This is just below the bandwidth used by cell phones.

The CHIME telescope’s large collecting area, wide bandwidth and enormous field-of-view make it a superb detector of FRBs. The CHIME FRB event rate is predicted to be between 2 and 50 FRBs per day. The telescope only started operating late in 2017.

CHIME is half-pipe design radio telescope that has four 100-meter-long (328 foot) U-shaped cylinders. It is designed to detect signals from when the universe was between 6 and 11 billion years old.

It has been speculated that Fast Radio Bursts are related to impacts of neutron stars and black holes or from supernovas.

Only a few dozen Fast Radio Bursts have been detected so far.

Neutron star collision fast radio bursts can give off visible light and gamma rays and gravity waves.

Frequent detections of Fast Radio Bursts could provide insight into gravity, neutron stars and blackholes.


The sensitivity of the world’s major Fast Radio Burst experiments. Fast radio burst detection rate on the x-axis and radio frequency on the y-axis. CHIME has a very large expected FRB detection rate, which will be crucial for understanding the nature of this puzzling phenomenon.

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