Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Balloon Mission Tunes in to a Cosmic Radio Mystery

09.01.2009
Listening to the early universe just got harder. A team led by Alan Kogut of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., today announced the discovery of cosmic radio noise that booms six times louder than expected.

The finding comes from a balloon-borne instrument named ARCADE, which stands for the Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission. In July 2006, the instrument launched from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, and flew to an altitude of 120,000 feet, where the atmosphere thins into the vacuum of space.

ARCADE's mission was to search the sky for heat from the first generation of stars. Instead, it found a cosmic puzzle.

"The universe really threw us a curve," Kogut says. "Instead of the faint signal we hoped to find, here was this booming noise six times louder than anyone had predicted." Detailed analysis ruled out an origin from primordial stars or from known radio sources, including gas in the outermost halo of our own galaxy. The source of this cosmic radio background remains a mystery.

Many objects in the universe emit radio waves. In 1931, American physicist Karl Jansky first detected radio static from our own Milky Way galaxy. Similar emission from other galaxies creates a background hiss of radio noise.

The problem, notes team member Dale Fixsen of the University of Maryland at College Park, is that there don't appear to be enough radio galaxies to account for the signal ARCADE detected. "You'd have to pack them into the universe like sardines," he says. "There wouldn't be any space left between one galaxy and the next."

The sought-for signal from the earliest stars remains hidden behind the newly detected cosmic radio background. This noise complicates efforts to detect the very first stars, which are thought to have formed about 13 billion years ago -- not long, in cosmic terms, after the Big Bang. Nevertheless, this cosmic static may provide important clues to the development of galaxies when the universe was less than half its present age. Unlocking its origins should provide new insight into the development of radio sources in the early universe.

"This is what makes science so exciting," says Michael Seiffert, a team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "You start out on a path to measure something -- in this case, the heat from the very first stars -- but run into something else entirely, something unexplained."

Seiffert and Kogut announced the findings today at the 213th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif. Four papers describing ARCADE's results have been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.

ARCADE is the first instrument to measure the radio sky with enough precision to detect this mysterious signal. To enhance the sensitivity of ARCADE's radio receivers, they were immersed in more than 500 gallons of ultra-cold liquid helium. The instrument's operating temperature was just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.

This is the same temperature as the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, the remnant heat of the Big Bang that was itself discovered as cosmic radio noise in 1965. "If ARCADE is the same temperature as the microwave background, then the instrument’s heat cannot contaminate the cosmic signal," Kogut explains.

The NASA-funded project includes scientists and engineers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; the University of California at Santa Barbara; the University of Maryland; and Brazil's National Institute for Space Research. More than a dozen high school and undergraduate students participated in the payload's development.

The balloon flight was conducted under the auspices of the Balloon Program Office at Wallops Flight Facility by the staff of the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

Francis Reddy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2009/arcade_balloon.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA Protects its super heroes from space weather
17.08.2017 | NASA/Johnson Space Center

nachricht New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight
16.08.2017 | American Institute of Physics

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA Protects its super heroes from space weather

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Spray-on electric rainbows: Making safer electrochromic inks

17.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

17.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>