A device built in Brazil will help scientists find out more about the so-called “dark energy”, which accounts for about 70% of the universe’s composition. It is a radio telescope, which will measure the fluctuations in the distribution of matter in the universe, known as baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO).
The project is an international collaboration of researchers from Brazil, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) leads the project and is responsibile for construction, development, calibration, testing, and data analysis, as well as the project coordination committee. The overall coordination in Brazil lies with the Institute of Physics of the University of São Paulo (IF-USP).
According to INPE researcher Carlos Alexandre Wuensche, who is responsible for building the project’s instrumentation, the aim is to measure the acoustic oscillations of baryons when the universe was still very young. This can inform research into dark energy, a physics subject that continues to puzzle scientists.
BINGO, as the radio telescope has been named (which stands for Baryon acoustic oscillations In Neutral Gas Observations), has an estimated total cost of $4.9 million and will measure the distribution of neutral hydrogen at cosmic distances by using a technique called “intensity mapping”. Designed by scientists from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Uruguay, China, and Brazil to make the first BAO detection in radio frequencies, it will operate in the 0.96 GHz–1.26 GHz frequency range.
The Brazilian side is funded with $3.83 million by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), which will help develop components for receiver modules, build and mount the antenna. The Brazilian team consists of 25 people including researchers, technicians, engineers, and students.
According to researcher Carlos Wuensche, the project is a challenge for the country. “Brazilian industry has never built anything of this size and precision,” he says.
The radio telescope is expected to be set up in 2018 on a site in the Northwest region of Uruguay. The location was chosen for being an uninhabited area, not contaminated by radio waves and cell phone towers, in order to avoid interference. The first preliminary analyses will be published a year after setup.
Baryon acoustic oscillations are used in astrophysics to help scientists understand how galaxy clusters are formed, measure the expansion of the universe, and the amount of dark matter. The BAO scale is one of the most powerful probes to investigate cosmological parameters, including dark energy.
Translated by Mayra Borges
Edited by: Graça Adjuto / Nira Foster