A team of astronomers led by Dr Benjamin McKinley, who works with the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in Western Australia, have shown how the moon could reveal the infant secrets of the universe.
The infancy of the universe, there were no stars and galaxies available. The Universe was pretty much just hydrogen, floating around in space. As there were no sources of optical light visible to our eyes, this early stages of the Universe are known as the “cosmic dark ages”. However, the signals emanated from hydrogen was existing.
However, the signal from hydrogen is generally very weak. The astronomers plan to search for the faint signal from hydrogen atoms using a radio telescope named, Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), using brightness and shape of the moon as a reference. The results are reported in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The astronomers the MWA searched for radio signals given off by the hydrogen atoms. “The MWA takes the radio signals from space and we can then convert them into images of the sky,” explains Dr McKinley.
Since, radio signal from the early Universe is very weak, it was difficult to measure the average brightness of the sky. Astronomers had a brilliant idea: Use the Moon as a reference point of known brightness and shape, which allowed the team to measure the brightness of the Milky Way at the position of the occulting Moon.
The astronomers also measured the ‘earthshine’, which are radio waves from Earth that reflect off the Moon and back onto the telescope.
“If we can detect this radio signal it will tell us whether our theories about the evolution of the Universe are correct,” added Dr McKinley.