CHIME telescope yields unprecedented results



The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) project, a radio reflector in British Columbia , Canada, has nearly quadrupled the amount of fast radio bursts discovered so far .

Key Points:

  • The catching sight of an FRB is taken into account a rare thing within the field of astronomy .
  • Scientists from CHIME and researchers at Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR) and therefore the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) have assembled the biggest collection of fast radio bursts (FRBs) within the telescope’s first FRB catalogue.

About fast radio bursts (FRBs):

  • They are oddly bright flashes of sunshine , registering within the radio band of the spectrum .
  • It blazes for a couple of milliseconds before vanishing without a trace.
  • These brief and mysterious beacons are spotted in various and distant parts of the universe, also as in our own galaxy.
  • Their origins are unknown and their appearance is very unpredictable.

The newly discovered bursts appear to fall under two distinct classes:  

  • One that repeats
  • Second, that doesn’t.
  • Scientists have identified 18 FRB sources that burst repeatedly, while remaining appear to be one-offs.
  • After mapping it had been found that the bursts were evenly distributed in space, seeming to arise from any and all parts of the sky.
  • The scientists calculated that bright fast radio bursts occur at a rate of about 800 per day across the whole sky.
  • The repeaters looked different, with each burst lasting slightly longer and emitting more focused radio frequencies than bursts from single, non-repeating FRBs.

Advent of the CHIME project:

  • It is an outsized stationary radio telescope in British Columbia , Canada.
  • CHIME comprises four massive cylindrical radio antennas, roughly the dimensions and shape of snowboarding half-pipes.
  • The telescope receives radio signals every day from half the sky because the Earth rotates.
  • Benefits associated with far detection of the CHIME project:

Prior to the CHIME project, radio astronomers had only caught sight of around 140 bursts in their scopes since the primary FRB was spotted in 2007.

  • It has been a game-changer and has nearly quadrupled the amount of fast radio bursts discovered so far .
  • The telescope has detected a whopping 535 new fast radio bursts in its first year of operation itself, between 2018 and 2019.
  • It can observe an outsized swathe of the sky around the clock and be ready to detect FRBs at an unprecedented rate.
  • Before CHIME, different telescopes had observed a couple of FRBs each, but with their own selection criteria and software.


National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA):

  • The Centre has its roots within the astronomy Group of TIFR, found out within the early 1960s under the leadership of Prof. Govind Swarup.
  • The group designed and built the Ooty radio reflector .
  • In 1963, the young branch of astronomy, called `Radio Astronomy‘ got a kick starter in India with the establishment of a astronomy group at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai.  

Radio Telescope of India:

  • In the early ’80s, an ambitious plan for a replacement telescope was proposed - the enormous Metrewave radio reflector .
  • The first Indian radio reflector was found out by TIFR in 1965 at Kalyan (near Mumbai), mainly for solar studies at meter wavelengths.
  • Thereafter, in 1969 a "big break" came with the successful construction of an outsized cylindrical, steerable radio reflector installed on an 11-degree hill slope near Ooty in southern India.
  • The Ooty radio reflector (ORT) continues to be the most important steerable single antenna.  
  • ORT firmly placed India on the planet map of astronomy , within the early 1970s.
  • The next major leap was the indigenous design and construction of the enormous Metrewave radio reflector (GMRT) at Khodad, 80 km north of Pune.
  • GMRT went into routine operation in 2000.
  • It is a Y-shaped array of 30 fully- steerable dish type antennas of 45 – meter diameter each, cover a 25- km region, is presently the world’s largest radio reflector operating at meter wavelength.




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