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Galaxy Formation From the Moon: A Forecast

Author: 
Jordan Mirocha
Topic: 
Astrophysics
Delivered As: 
Oral
Abstract Text: 

The 'cosmic dawn,' when the Universe's first stars and galaxies formed, lies beyond the reach of even the most powerful optical and near-infrared telescopes in operation today. Even the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), to launch in just a few years, will struggle to detect the earliest sources of light given that it is the neutral -- and thus opaque -- high redshift intergalactic medium (IGM) that hides star-forming galaxies from view, rather than any fundamental limits in detector technology. A growing body of work suggests that targeting the IGM itself, via rest-frame 21-cm emission from neutral hydrogen atoms, is *the* solution to this problem, as the 21-cm brightness encodes the temperature and ionization state of the IGM and thus the ultraviolet and X-ray emission properties of galaxies. The lunar far-side is the optimal platform for conducting such observations, as it escapes the radio-frequency interference and ionospheric complications that plague Earth-based radio observatories. In this talk, I will discuss recent work focused on better understanding the 21-cm signatures of the Universe's first galaxies, progress in signal extraction algorithms, which attempt to distinguish the 21-cm signal from foreground contaminants, and the development of physical models that unite many probes of the early Universe within a common framework. I will highlight one such probe -- the proposed Dark Ages Radio Explorer -- whose unique view from the lunar far-side will probe galaxies out to redshifts of z ~ 35, and thus provide import context for JWST measurements at redshifts of z ~ 10-15.

Co-Authors: 
T. Livengood, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center"...
SSERVI Identifier: 
NESF2016-092

About SSERVI
Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."