Science with the Murchison Widefield Array
17 January 2014
Low frequency radio waves give us a unique window on the Universe. New technological advances mean that we can build sensitive wide-field telescopes that can explore this regime in detail for the first time. One of the instruments designed to do this is the Murchison Widefield Array, the first telescope in the Southern Hemisphere that will be able to explore the low-frequency astronomical sky between 80 and 300 MHz.
CAASTRO scientists (including Tara Murphy, Randall Wayth, and many Chief Investigators) and their colleagues plan to investigate four main science areas with the MWA. They will conduct a search for redshifted 21-cm emission from the Epoch of Reionisation: the period in which the first radiating objects in the Universe formed. To do this, the MWA will look back in time to about a hundred million years ago, when all the gas in the Universe transformed from a neutral state to an ionized state. Another focus will be time variable phenomena: looking for objects that change rapidly on human timescales. Transient and variable behaviour is a sign that extreme physics is occurring, for example we could discover black holes in the process of forming.
The MWA will also do a massive survey of the whole Southern Sky, studying a range of Galactic and extragalactic phenomena such as supernova remnants and massive radio galaxies. Finally, astronomers will do a detailed study of our own Sun, and the space weather in our solar system. This paper describes all of these key science goals in detail, outlining the great discovery potential of this exciting new telescope.
by T. Murphy