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Project area/S

  • Extragalactic radio science
  • The distant universe

Project Details

Before the very first galaxies formed, the Universe was a sea of hydrogen and helium, gently cooling and collapsing. When the first galaxies formed, they ionised the surrounding gas, turning it from an opaque absorbing cloud into the transparent, ionised plasma we see today: this time is called the Epoch of Reionisation. This change will have occurred at different rates in different locations in the Universe. When we look at high-redshift galaxies which emit in the radio spectrum, any neutral hydrogen along the line-of-sight will absorb the characteristic HI line at that redshift. For the highest-redshift galaxies, this HI line is shifted from 1.4GHz down to ~200MHz. This is within the frequency range of the Murchison Widefield Array, a radio telescope operated by Cur-tin University and based in the Murchison Radio Observatory. This project aims to detect HI absorption in high-redshift radio galaxies using the MWA. The student will use an efficient pipeline we have developed to search for lines in hundreds of hours of data, using the Pawsey supercomputers. A detection would be a world-first and have huge scientific impact.

Student Attributes

Academic Background

Knowledge of astronomical co-ordinate systems (RA, Dec); basic understanding of large-scale structure of the Universe; i.e. 2nd year astronomy or above.

Computing Skills
Bash and python would be desirable, but any programming experience would be fine. Ability to use basic Linux command-line and text editor such as vi, nano, or emacs.

Training Requirement
Use of an existing pipeline on HPC resources, plotting data in python and matplotlib, basic statistical analysis of large, simple datasets

Project Timeline

  • Week 1 Inductions and project introduction
  • Week 2 Initial Presentation
  • Week 3 Training on use of HPC and pipeline
  • Week 4 Initial calibration tests and data selection
  • Week 5 Processing data
  • Week 6 Processing data
  • Week 7 Analysis of results
  • Week 8 Translation of results to astrophysical limits / detections
  • Week 9 Final Presentation
  • Week 10 Final Report

Additional supervisors

  • Dr Chenoa Tremblay (CASS-Perth)
  • Dr James Allison (Oxford)
  • Dr Liz Mahony (CASS-Marsfield)

Spectrum produced for a high-redshift radio galaxy from several hours of data processed through the existing pipeline. The black lines indicate the value at the target, and the blue shading indicates 3x the noise level in each channel.