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Astronomers are developing a new way to “see” the fi & More

photo: The REACH hexagonal dipole radio antenna has been installed on the Karoo radio reserve in South Africa.
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Credit: The REACH collaboration

A team of astronomers has developed a technique that will allow them to “see” through the fog of the early Universe and detect light from the first stars and galaxies.

The researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, have developed a strategy that may allow them to observe and search for the first stars via the hydrogen clouds that filled the Universe around 378,000 years after the Big Bang. .

Observing the delivery of the first stars and galaxies has been a goal of astronomers for many years, as it would help clarify how the Universe developed from the post-Big Bang vacancy to the complex realm of celestial objects we now observe. , 13.8 billion years later.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) – a next-generation telescope due to be completed by the end of the decade – will no doubt find a way to photograph the first lights of the Universe, but for current telescopes the problem is to detect the cosmological sign of the stars via the thick hydrogen clouds.

The sign that astronomers intend to detect should be about 100,000 times fainter than other radio indicators also coming from the sky – for example, radio indicators from our own galaxy.

The use of a radio telescope itself introduces distortions into the acquired sign, which can totally obscure the cosmological sign of curiosity. This is seen as an excessive observational problem in fashionable radio cosmology. These instrument-related distortions are usually blamed for being the main bottleneck in any such commentary.

Now, Cambridge-led staff have developed a strategy to see through primordial clouds and different sky noise indicators, avoiding the detrimental impact of distortions thrown by the radio telescope. Their methodology, which is part of the REACH (Radio Experiment for the Analysis of Cosmic Hydrogen) experiment, will allow astronomers to observe the first stars via their interaction with hydrogen clouds, in the same way that we would infer a panorama by glancing at the shadows in the fog.

Their methodology will improve the high quality and reliability of radio telescope observations by examining this unexplored key moment in the improvement of the Universe. The first observations of REACH are expected later this year.

The results are being reported right now in the journal natural astronomy.

“At the time the first stars formed, the Universe was almost empty and composed mainly of hydrogen and helium,” said Dr Eloy de Lera Acedo of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, lead editor of the paper.

He added: “Due to gravity, the elements eventually came together and the conditions were right for nuclear fusion, which formed the first stars. But they were surrounded by clouds of so-called neutral hydrogen, which absorb the light very well, so it is difficult to detect or directly observe the light behind the clouds.

In 2018, another research group (exploiting the “Experiment to Detect Global Epoch of Reioniozation Signature” – or EDGES) printed a consequence that hinted at possible detection of this first light, but astronomers didn’t were unable to repeat the main consequence – that they consider that the genuine consequence might have been due to interference from the telescope used.

“The original result would require new physics to explain it, due to the temperature of hydrogen gas, which would have to be much colder than our current understanding of the Universe would allow. Alternatively, an unexplained higher temperature of the background radiation — usually assumed to be the well-known cosmic microwave background — could be the cause,” said de Lera Acedo.

He added: “If we can confirm that the signal found in this earlier experiment really came from early stars, the implications would be huge.”

In order to search for this era in the betterment of the Universe, generally referred to as the Cosmic Dawn, astronomers study the 21 centimeter line – an electromagnetic radiation signature of hydrogen in the early Universe. They are looking for a radio sign that measures the distinction between hydrogen radiation and the radiation behind hydrogen fog.

The methodology developed by de Lera Acedo and his colleagues uses Bayesian statistics to detect a cosmological sign in the presence of telescope interference and normal sky noise, so that the indicators are separated.

To do this, advanced strategies and applied sciences in totally different fields were necessary.

The researchers used simulations to mimic a real commentary using a number of antennas, which improves the reliability of knowledge – previous observations relied on a single antenna.

“Our method analyzes data from multiple antennas together and over a wider frequency band than equivalent current instruments. This approach will provide us with the information needed for our Bayesian data analysis,” said de Lera Acedo.

He added: “Essentially we forgot about traditional design strategies and instead focused on designing a telescope that fits the way we plan to analyze the data – something like a reverse design. This could help us measure things from the Cosmic Dawn to the time of reionization, when the hydrogen in the Universe was reionized.

Construction of the telescope is currently being finalized at Karoo Radio Reserve in South Africa, a location chosen for its wonderful circumstances for radio observations of the sky. It is far away from human-made radio frequency interference, such as TV and FM radio indicators.

The REACH team of over 30 researchers is multidisciplinary and globally distributed, with consultants in similar areas of theoretical and observational cosmology, antenna design, radio frequency instrumentation, numerical modeling, numerical processing , vast knowledge and Bayesian statistics. REACH is co-led by the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

Professor de Villiers, co-head of the company at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, said: “Although the antenna know-how used for this instrument is slightly simple, the deployment framework tough and aloof, and the tight tolerances required in manufacturing, make this a really tough company to work with.

He added: “We are extremely excited to see how well the system will perform, and are fully confident that we will make this elusive detection.”

The Big Bang and the earliest instances of the Universe are well-understood epochs, thanks to research into cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. The late and widespread evolution of stars and various celestial objects is even better understood. But the time of the formation of the first light in the Cosmos is a fundamental missing piece in the puzzle of the history of the Universe.

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