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December 10, 2010

New method of finding the universe's first light

Astronomers are looking back to the earliest times of the solar system, to figure out when and how the first stars formed. The epoch in question is officially named “reionization epoch”.

Astronomers hope they will have their questions answered by radio waves.

So far, MIT astronomers Judd Bowman and Alan Rogers built a custom antenna, which they aimed to look for hydrogen gas between galaxies, which would have emitted a characteristic radio signal. Next, the researchers looked for evidence showing how this radio signal may have changed over time. Their experiment, which was constrained for a ‘short-term basis’, did not detect any change in the signal, which means it is likely that it took longer than 3-12 million years for galaxies and stars to form.

Their observations fit with most models of the early-universe, though the astronomers claim that the study does rule out some fringe theories.

The researchers plan to refine the instrument design, which will allow them to be able to look at a wider range of radio frequencies.


Posted by dkaknjo at December 10, 2010 12:03 PM


I think it would be really interesting to learn more about the new technology that scientists are now using to learn more about the Earth and other planets and stars. Technology plays such a crucial role especially in astronomy, and so I think that studying the technological aspect of astronomy might be helpful for students to better understand the process by which scientists come to certain conclusions. I wonder how long it took for Bowman and Rogers to come up with the idea for the new antenna and actually execute this project. I also wonder how much it cost to actually go about making this antenna.

Posted by: eswhang at December 14, 2010 12:59 AM

Well their goal is to eventually make radio maps of the entire sky and to completely map how and when reionization (galaxy/star formation) ocurred. I agree, it will definitely be expensive, but I think it'd be extremely helpful for understanding the origins of the early universe.

Posted by: dkaknjo at December 15, 2010 02:06 PM

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