Mapping the Universe

​​Charting the Power of Dark Energy on Cosmic Expansion

The universe. A mysterious vastness with an unknown history, it has piqued the interest of scientists since the dawn of time. And now, thanks to AMD technology and the efforts of Professor Keith Vanderlinde of the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto, its farthest reaches are being explored.

​Image courtesy of Dr. Keith Vanderlinde, University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics 


​The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, is a massive radio telescope being built in British Columbia. Designed to map a larger volume of the universe than has ever been attempted before, the goal of CHIME is to trace a large part of the universe’s history, to map how it has expanded over time, and try to figure out the role dark energy plays in that expansion.

Video courtesy of Dr. Peter Klages, CITA and Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto

Historically, optical telescopes have been used to map the galaxies in the universe. The problem is, as you get farther and farther from Earth, things become fainter and harder to see, requiring ever more complex (and expensive) telescopes. To overcome this, CHIME measures the bulk emission of “radio light” — radio waves emitted from hydrogen gas — from many galaxies together. This increases the overall signal strength, helping them to more efficiently map the universe. In the past, this type of measurement would have required many large, hundred-meter-class radio telescopes. The creators of CHIME realized that rather than building dozens of telescopes, they could build one “digital telescope” that would process all the light it received with a massive supercomputer powered by a series of the world’s fastest single-precision GPU accelerators, the AMD FirePro™ S9300 x2 GPU.1 This supercomputer can continually focus in many directions simultaneously, making the instrument not only more sensitive, but faster.

Professor Vanderlinde reflected that, “With the onset of previously unavailable technology and tools such as the AMD FirePro™ S9300 x2 GPU, we now have the computational power, bandwidth, and efficiency to study the impact of dark energy on our universe.” While the possibilities were endless, due to the sheer computational power required, digital telescopes have until now been prohibitively expensive undertakings. Enter AMD. According to Vanderlinde, “AMD has the fastest processor on the market and they can do these computations more efficiently than anybody else. Not only at a lower price and for lower power, but it was an easier development process to get from zero to here. We’re very appreciative of the supporting efforts from AMD in this project.” The result? An ideal collaboration of scientific ingenuity and technological prowess — initiated on earth and completed in the stars. 

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