(Jacobs) COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Observing the Epoch of Reionization with the Murchison Widefield Array

Project: Research project

Project Details


(Jacobs) COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Observing the Epoch of Reionization with the Murchison Widefield Array (Jacobs) COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Observing the Epoch of Reionization with the Murchison Widefield Array PROJECT SUMMARY Overview: Page A In modern astronomy, one edge of the unknown is the Epoch of Reionization (EoR, 6<z<12) when the first stars ionized the intergalactic medium. Understanding this period of ?Cosmic Dawn? was singled out by the New Worlds, New Horizons decadal survey as one of the three key goals of the decade. Observations of this period push the limits of modern observatories and challenge theories of star and galaxy formation in the early universe. Optical and IR observations at redshifts greater than 6 are challenging and probe a tiny fraction of space and time. A promising new technique that fills in the large scale picture is the direct observation of the intergalactic medium via the 21 cm hyperfine transition redshifted into the 100?200 MHz band. Challenges include detecting the 10 mK signal on top of the 100 K foregrounds and accounting for the covariance between the two introduced by the instrumental response. The reward is a series of power spectra which place meaningful constraints on the timing and sources of reionization. The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is the first of the HERA phase-1 instruments to finish construction, and started ~1700 hours of EoR observations in August. This proposal would fund the US EoR team to analyze these exciting new observations and measure the rise and fall of the EoR power spectrum. Intellectual Merit : 21 cm observations of the EoR were specifically called out by the decadal survey, and the associated HERA (Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Arrays) roadmap was the highest ranked project by the Radio-Millimeter-Submillimeter Panel. The proposed observations have the sensitivity to measure the rise and fall of the EoR power spectrum, placing meaningful constraints on models of reionization and early star formation. These constraints would have broad impact on the astrophysics community and could influence how JWST observations are interpreted, constrain the optical depth of CMB measurements, and become a cornerstone in our understanding of the early universe. Broader Impacts : Beyond the scientific impact on the astrophysics community, all three of our groups have a deep commitment to student training and enhancing the ethnic and gender diversity of physics and astronomy. Prof. Morales was honored by Diversity Magazine in their inaugural list of ten emerging minority scholars in 2006, Prof. Bowman and Dr. Jacobs have been actively involved in community outreach at local urban schools and tribal centers, and Prof. Hewitt has a long history of advocating for women in science. This grant would help us to continue training a diverse set of students to become the next generation leaders in science. In addition this grant would train 2 graduate students and 2 postdocs in precision calibration and data analysis techniques. This experience will put them in good stead for postdoctoral positions or industry jobs in precision data processing and code development.
Effective start/end date8/15/147/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $201,366.00


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