78 Megahertz: Australian astronomers detect signal from the dawn of the universe

(Image: NASA – Hubble Space Telescope)

(Source: ABC Science via William Lee)

Astronomers detect signal from the dawn of the universe, using simple antenna in WA outback

They have picked up a radio signature produced just 180 million years after the Big Bang using a simple antenna in the West Australian outback.

The ground breaking discovery, reported today in the journal Nature, sheds light on a period of time known as the “cosmic dawn”, when radiation from the first stars started to alter the primordial gas soup surrounding them.

[…]The signal they’ve been looking for is a miniscule fraction — between 0.1 and 0.01 per cent — of the radio noise from the sky.

“It’s like trying to hear a whisper from the other side of a roaring football stadium,” Professor Bowman said.

The signal is also within the lower range of FM radio, so finding a place on Earth that is free of human radio interference was essential.

That’s why Professor Bowman and colleagues decided to base their experiment at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, 300 kilometres north-east of Geraldton.

“Going to Western Australia and working at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory was an absolutely critical first step for us,” he said.

There they built a small table-sized radio spectrometer with a radio receiver attached to two metal panels that act as an antenna. Akin to a set-up from the 60s or 70s, the EDGES instrument is much simpler in design than bigger array telescopes around the world.[…]

Click here to read the full article at ABC Science.

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