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Radio waves from the moon will shed light on the early universe

About 50 million years after the big bang, we will be able to measure the evolution of the universe and its composition by measuring radio waves from the moon

In Ellipse: The Dark Age of the Universe. Illustration:
In Ellipse: The Dark Age of the Universe. Illustration:

A new study by Tel Aviv University succeeded for the first time in predicting groundbreaking results regarding the universe we live in using radio waves originating from the moon. The research findings show that by measuring the radio waves it will be possible to test the standard cosmological model in an innovative way as well as the composition of the universe and the weight of the neutrino particles in the universe, and perhaps also help the world of science crack another layer in the mystery of dark matter.

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The research was conducted under the leadership of the research group of Prof. Renan Barkana, including the post-doctoral student Dr. Rajesh Mondal, from the School of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Exact Sciences. The study was published in the prestigious journal Nature Astronomy.

According to the researchers, it is possible to study the cosmic dark period (the era before the formation of the first stars), with the help of radio waves emitted by the hydrogen gas that filled the universe at that time. Although every vehicle has an antenna that receives radio waves, the radio waves from the early universe are blocked by the Earth's atmosphere. They can only be measured from space, and especially from the moon, which provides a stable environment, without interference from the atmosphere or nearby radio communication. Of course it is not easy to bring a telescope to the moon, but nowadays there is an international space race in which many countries try to return to the moon with spacecraft and eventually astronauts as well. Space agencies in the US, Europe, China, and India are looking for a scientific purpose for landing on the moon, and the new research puts the measurement of radio waves from the cosmic dark ages at the center.

"NASA's new space telescope, named after James Webb, recently found several distant galaxies, whose light comes from the time of the cosmic dawn, about 300 million years after the Big Bang," explains Prof. Barkana. "Our new research deals with an earlier and even more mysterious period: the cosmic dark ages, only about 50 million years after the big bang. Conditions in the early universe were very different from today. The new study uses existing knowledge about the evolution of the universe and considers different options for radio wave observations to show what might be discovered. Specifically, we calculated the intensity of the radio waves as it reflects the density and temperature of the hydrogen gas at different times, and then we showed how to analyze the measurements in order to extract the desired information from them.'

What happened the minute after the big bang?

The researchers estimate that the research findings may be very significant in the scientific understanding of our cosmic history. For example, the research shows that with the help of one antenna on the moon, it will be possible to test the standard cosmological model in an innovative way and to know if it succeeds in explaining the cosmic dark period or if there was then a disturbance in the expansion of the universe that would indicate a new discovery. Also, the researchers estimate that with the help of a radio telescope consisting of an array of antennas, it will be possible to accurately measure the composition of the universe (especially the amount of hydrogen and the amount of helium in it).

Hydrogen is the original configuration of the normal matter in the universe, from which the stars, the planets, and eventually us were formed. It is also of great importance to accurately measure the amount of helium because it will help to understand the early period of about a minute after the bang, in which the helium was created when the entire universe was basically an active nuclear reactor. With the help of an even greater number of antennas on the moon, we can also measure the weight of the neutrinos in the universe. These are small particles that are emitted in various nuclear processes; Their weight is a critical vanishing in the development of the fundamentals of particle physics beyond the accepted standard model.

"When you open a new window in science you usually discover surprises. With the help of the proposed observations, it is possible to discover different properties of dark matter, which is the biggest mystery: we do know that it is the majority of matter in the universe, but its properties and nature are still mysterious. Certainly, the cosmic dark period will provide new light on the universe", Prof. Barkana concludes.

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