One of the scientists who helped spearhead a massive telescope project in the Okanagan has won a prestigious award honouring Canada’s ground-breaking researchers.
McGill University astrophysicist Matt Dobbs is the recipient of the 2019 Killam Research Fellowship in Natural Sciences.
Dobbs was rewarded for his project, titled “Unveiling the Cosmos with a New Paradigm Digital Radio Telescope,” involving the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, radio telescope launched near Penticton, B.C., in 2017.
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CHIME, the first major research telescope to be built on Canadian soil in more than 30 years, is radically different from most telescopes, according to a news release issued by McGill University.
The massive digital telescope has no moving parts; rather, it records radio signals with over 1,000 stationary antennas.
The telescope reconstructs the overhead sky by using signal processing techniques implemented on electronics and a farm of customized computers.
Essentially, it sifts through the subtle whispers and bleeps of radio noise that are coming our way across billions of light-years of space.
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Dobbs received $140,000 through the Killam Research Fellowship. He plans to develop new techniques for calibrating the CHIME telescope.
Researchers will use CHIME to make new measurements to explain the expansion history of the universe and unravel the source of newly discovered flashes of distant radio light.
The telescope has discovered 13 fast radio bursts, or FRBs, coming from far outside our Milky Way Galaxy.
“New technology in radio astronomy is allowing us to probe the cosmos in ways that seemed far out of reach not too long ago,” said Dobbs.
“We’re pursuing these strategies to construct a laboratory on the sky.”
The CHIME project is co-led by the University of British Columbia, McGill University, the University of Toronto and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory.