CHIMING IN ON FRBS
Why a digital telescope with no moving parts might be the instrument that detects the most FRBs – even though that’s not what it’s designed to do
The upcoming Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) in Penticton, British Columbia, will be a discovery machine for fast radio bursts. CHIME, run by four Canadian institutes, is an all-sky observatory, designed to map the distribution of neutral hydrogen in the early Universe, so its main goal is cosmology. But given its extremely large field of view, it is expected to detect dozens of relatively bright fast radio bursts per day.
The ‘digital telescope’ has no moving parts at all. It consists of four cylindrical ‘half-pipes’, oriented north to south, and measuring 20x100m. The telescope’s orientation with respect to the sky changes as a result of Earth’s rotation, which makes it possible to use interferometry to create detailed hydrogen maps. According to radio astronomer Vicky Kaspi of McGill University in Montreal, CHIME could be an excellent FRB detector, despite observing at lower frequencies than Parkes, Arecibo or the Very Large Array.
CHIME consists of four massive metal halfpipes – each is 20m wide and 100m long