The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is an international collaboration between Australian, American, and Indian institutions to build and operate a state-of-the-art, wide-field, low frequency radio telescope in the remote Australian outback (ideal for its radio quietness). The MWA is currently taking data with 128 tiles, and is a "pathfinder" experiment for a major future international astronomical project -- the Square Kilometer Array. The ultimate goal of the MWA telescope is to observe the birth of the first stars and galaxies in the early universe. The Astrophysics group is involved in the prototype design, observations, research programs and leadership of this project. Please contact Rachel Webster or Stuart Wyithe for more information.
One of the key science goals of the MWA will be to detect the weak radio signals coming from Hydrogen gas emitted at a time when the Universe was in the first 1% of its life to help us understand how stars, planets and galaxies were formed. This is the period between 300,000 years after the Big Bang and a billion years later, called the Dark Ages because there was no visible light.
Modern telescopes have probed back to a time when the Universe was about 1/10 of its current age and stars, planets and galaxies were already formed. We need to look back to a time when the Universe consisted of only a dark void of Hydrogen gas. In this cosmic Dark Age, the first stars formed and the first light shone in the Universe – the cosmic dawn. When the first stars and galaxies light up, most of the hydrogen gas in the Universe will have "ionized" as it goes from a cold to a hot state. The MWA will observe this "ionization" of the Universe.
Please refer to the MWA website for further details on this and other science goals, facility specifications and partnerships.