Telescope near Carnarvon to shed light on the earliest moments of the Universe

2013-04-02 00:00

CAPE TOWN — A telescope near Carnarvon in the Northern Cape will soon be listening to the Universe’s earliest era.

The telescope, which will work in tandem with one in the U.S., is situated about 15 km from the town on the farm Klerefontein, where the headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope are. The actual SKA dish array will be built some 80 km away.

The C-Bass-South telescope will work with the C-Bass-North one in Owens Valley, California, to observe the cosmic mircowave background radiation to shed light on the earliest moments of the Universe.

It is similar to the Planck space telescope, which recently released an image of the microwave background signal, but will fill a gap in research.

The Planck results put the age of the Universe at 13,8 billion years and the local facility will play a big role in helping to understand the Planck findings.

The cosmic microwave background is ancient starlight that has travelled billions of years from the earliest moments of the Universe to reach us.

The study of fluctuations in this ancient starlight, which shows up as different colours on radio images, shows where and how the first stars and galaxies formed.

Charles Copley, a South African member of C-Bass, said two telescopes are needed to observe the whole Universe, one in the northern and one in the southern hemisphere.

The one in the United States is already online and the one at Klerefontein is undergoing final adjustments at the Hartebeestpoort radio observatory.

He said the most exciting data on the ancient Universe still lies ahead, when the Planck telescope reveals more detail of what exactly it consisted of when it was just a fraction of a second old.

However, there is a problem: the Milky Way, through which the Planck can’t see the cosmic microwave background because it is too bright.

The C-Bass can see through, to the older starlight behind, because it is looking at different wavelengths.

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