Astronomers Are ‚Racing Against Time‘ as Humanity Clogs the Air With Radio Signals

The CHIME telescope. Image: Andre Renard/Dunlap Institute, University of Toronto
Interference is playing havoc with radio telescopes.


In a remote valley in the British Columbia interior, a massive telescope called the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) is scouring the skies for traces of dark energy, a mysterious force that drives the expansion of the universe but has never been directly detected. As if hunting for dark energy isn’t challenging enough, radio astronomers fear it might not be long before proliferating tech like smartphones and space satellites make these kinds of studies—and even the ongoing search for aliens—impossible, due to radio interference.

According to Mark Halpern, principal investigator at CHIME and astronomy professor at the University of British Columbia, the growing number of communications satellites in space as well as technologies on the ground that emit radio waves are interfering with CHIME’s data-collecting, and could potentially do more damage in the future. If radio astronomers aren’t able to do their research, it could prevent us from making future discoveries about our universe.

„I feel like we’re racing against time to get CHIME done while we still can,“ Halpern said.

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