Radio waves from our Milky Way galaxy are reflected across the surface of the moon in a stunning new image.
By Samantha Mathewson | SPACE.com
Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope in the Western Australian desert, astronomers modeled this stunning view of the Milky Way’s radio waves cast across the moon. Researchers will use this measurement to very precisely measure the patch of sky covered by the moon, which will let them eventually detect extremely faint emissions from hydrogen atoms to help see how the first stars and galaxies of the early universe evolved, the research team said in a statement.
„Before there were stars and galaxies, the universe was pretty much just hydrogen, floating around in space,“ Benjamin McKinley, lead astronomer of the study from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said in the statement. „Since there are no sources of the optical light visible to our eyes, this early stage of the universe is known as the ‚cosmic dark ages.'“ [Stunning Photos of Our Milky Way Galaxy (Gallery)]
The new image is actually comprised of measurements from the MWA’s lunar observations, as well as the Global Sky Model — a map of diffuse galactic radio emission published in 2008. Using computer modeling, the Global Sky Model was mapped onto the face of the moon, allowing astronomers to calculate the average brightness from the Milky Way that would reflect off its surface.
The Milky Way radiates light onto different areas of the moon’s surface. This light is then reflected back toward Earth and captured in the telescope’s view. Therefore, the researchers were able to calculate how much light from the Milky Way reflects off the moon to factor into their computation, McKinley told Space.com in an email.