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Indian Radio Telescope Captures The Most Distant Signal Ever In History

by Coffee Table Science


Researchers at McGill University have captured a radio signal from a very distant galaxy. This is the most distant signal ever captured by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in Pune. The signal came from the galaxy known as SDSSJ0826+5630 and provides researchers a chance to see how the universe looked billions of years ago. 

Image credit Wikimedia Commons 

Arnab Chakraborty, a post-doctoral researcher at McGill University said that the signal was emitted 8.8 billion years ago when when the universe was 4.9 billion years old. The telescope was able to pick up the distant signal because it was bent by another galaxy located between the signal and the telescope. 

How does Gravitational Lensing work?

The bending of the signal is scientifically referred to as gravitational lensing and can help researchers observe the cosmic development of stars and galaxies that are far away. 

A gravitational lens is a diffusion of matter between a distant light origin and an observer that is capable of bending the light from the source as the light travels toward the observer. Every galaxy emits distinct kinds of radio signals. Currently, it has only been possible to capture this special signal from a galaxy nearby, limiting our knowledge to those galaxies which are closer to Earth. 

“But thanks to gravitational lensing, which is naturally occurring, it can catch an unclear signal from a record-breaking distance”, Chakrabarty added.

Image credit Pexels 

The importance of hydrogen gas in galaxy

The researchers were able to find that Hydrogen gas provides the basic fuel for star formation in a galaxy. To understand the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time the knowledge of the cosmic evolution of this neutral gas is necessary. The atomic mass of the hydrogen gas in SDSSJ0826+5630 is nearly equal to the mass of the stars that are visible to us. 

This old radio wave originated not from an ancient race of aliens but from one of the most primitive elements of the universe i.e neutral hydrogen. This neutral hydrogen was produced from the residue of the Big Bang some 400,000 years after the birth of the universe. 

Back then, clouds of neutral hydrogen atoms dispersed the early universe, and what astronomers call as “dark age”, an era before the first bright stars and galaxies were produced from the celestial dust. Neutral hydrogen particles emit electromagnetic radiation at a wavelength of 21 centimeters, which comes under the category of radio waves.

The research was funded by McGill University and the Indian Institute of Science.

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