Lab Canada

Construction begins on Canada’s largest radio telescope

Penticton, BC – Construction is now under way on Canada’s largest radio telescope – and the first research telescope to be built in the country in more than 30 years. The new telescope, with a footprint larger than six NHL hockey rinks, will “listen” for cosmic sound waves and help scientists understand why the universe has expanded rapidly.

Part of the $11-million Canadian Hydrogen Intensity-Mapping Experiment (CHIME), the radio telescope is being built at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) in Penticton.

“We plan to map a quarter of the observable universe,” says Mark Halpern, astrophysicist with the University of British Columbia and the project’s principal investigator. “This is an ambitious, made-in-Canada endeavour.”

The telescope boasts a 100m by 100m collecting area filled with 2,560 low-noise receivers built with components adapted from the cell phone industry which, collectively, scan half of the sky every day.

“The CHIME telescope will be the most sensitive instrument in the world for this type of research and the DRAO is one of the best sites in the world for this research,” says Gary Hinshaw, UBC astrophysicist and project co-investigator.

Signals collected by the CHIME telescope will be digitally sampled nearly one billion times per second, then processed to synthesize an image of the sky.

“The recent discovery that the rate of expansion of our universe is increasing rather than slowing down has forced us to re-examine basic assumptions about what the universe is made of,” says Kris Sigurdson, UBC astrophysicist and CHIME co-investigator.

“Data collected by CHIME will help us understand the history of the Universe, and in turn how dark energy has driven its expansion,” adds Halpern.

CHIME includes scientists from UBC, McGill University, the University of Toronto and the DRAO.