A glimmer of hope that there is other life beyond planet earth shines on: In a moment where a telescope picks up a signal from the beginnings of the universe — in a galaxy five billion light years away. In Australia, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope project has reached farther than previously believed possible, and received radio emissions from the furthest reaches of space can be reached using this select group of Australian telescopes.
The importance of the ASKAP project
In reaching out into the farthest abyss in outer space we can come to an understanding about how everything was formed, and the reasons that the universe operates exactly as it does. The radio emissions which were received by the telescopes from five billion light years away were absorbed by hydrogen gas that travelled all the way to earth.
Dr. James Allison describes the importance of the telescopes in relation to this discovery, “At many observatories, this dip would have been hidden by background radio noise, but our site is so radio quiet it stood out clearly.”
Thanks to the telescope, a minuscule change in the signal from the hydrogen indicated that there was a signal detected.
Science behind the astounding discovery
This area of space is previously unexplored due to many factors, but now that everything has come together for the ASKAP project in this remote region of Australia allowing researchers access to what was previously though impossible, the search will continue to gather information from impossibly faraway places in space.
Professor Elaine Sadler, another researcher working on the ASKAP project describes what makes this project different from previous attempts to accomplish this scientific feat, “ASKAP looks at a relatively unexplored part of the radio spectrum, 700 to 1800 megahertz. This means we’ll be able to detect hydrogen gas deeper in space and, thanks to ASKAP’s wide field of view, also over a much larger volume than we could before. We’ll be hunting for galaxies that are five to eight billion years old, a timespan that represents a fifth of the Universe’s history.”
It’s remarkable how far into the unknown ASKAP is actually capable of reaching, and its tremendous potential for scientific exploration. The entire publication detailing the nuances of the discovery can be found here.
While this is a significant step in understanding the universe, for these Australian scientists the discovery of these signals from five billion light years away is only the beginning of what they hope to accomplish.
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