CHIME Project Helps 3D Mapping of Cosmos: Canada Researchers

Researchers from UBC are proposing a new 3D way to calculate distances in the cosmos using mysterious bursts of energy, which is knows as fast radio bursts.

The bursts of energy still remains an unknown mysterious phenomenon and they appear as short flashes of radio waves and scientists believe there could be thousands of them every day though only 10 of them have recorded so far.

These radio bursts travel toward Earth spreading out and arriving at different speeds in different times based on their wavelengths. Now the UBC researchers propose using the delay between the arrival times of different frequencies to map the cosmos.

Depending on the amount of spread in the signal that arrives on Earth, scientists can assess how many electrons, and by extension how much material including stars, gas and dark matter, are in between Earth and the source of the burst.

They propose Canada’s CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) radio telescope to measure the first set of regular data from fast radio bursts in collaboration with McGill University and the University of Toronto. CHIME is currently under construction at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton, Canada.

"CHIME has the potential of seeing tens to hundreds of these events per day so we can build a catalogue of events," said Kris Sigurdson of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who is also part of the CHIME project. "If they are cosmological, we can use this information to build catalogue of galaxies."

This method can build a three-dimensional image of the cosmos and become a dependable tool to map the distribution of material in the universe and inform our understanding of how it evolved.

The study was featured in the journal Physical Review Letters.

UBC researchers are proposing a new way to calculate distances in the cosmos using mysterious bursts of energy. CREDIT: Kris Sigurdson

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