The first stars were born about 400 million years after the Big Bang. The Dark Ages are over and a luminosity appears that eventually leads to the formation of galaxies.
This phenomenon peaked about 4 billion years after the birth of the universe, and COMAP scientists like to look where hardly anyone would: in the hidden age of star formation.
The Carbon Dioxide Mapping Matrix project, as the mission’s full name sounds, is to provide a unique view of the period of formation of galaxies. It will also provide answers to questions about what actually led to the increased production of stars in the universe. While most available instruments can only see the tip of an iceberg associated with the oldest galaxies, the COMAP system allows astronomers to see what’s underneath and hidden from view.
As part of their project, astronomers use a Leighton radio antenna
So far, researchers use a radio antenna Layton In OVRO. This makes it possible to trace the cold hydrogen gas from which stars are formed. Of course, it is not easy to locate this gas directly, so COMAP measures the bright radio signals of carbon monoxide, a diode that is inseparable from hydrogen. Interestingly enough, the COMAP Radio Camera is the most powerful camera ever designed to detect these radio signals.
We can read about the progress of the search in the pages Astrophysical Journal. So far, COMAP has succeeded in setting upper limits on the amount of cold gas that should be present in galaxies during the studied period. This group also includes structures that are too weak and dusty to be seen. Unfortunately, the discovery of carbon monoxide cannot be included in the list of successes yet, but it is likely that it will be done sooner or later. In the end, scientists hope to obtain the most comprehensive picture of the history of star formation in the universe.
COMAP works by capturing blurry radio images of groups of galaxies rather than sharp images of individual galaxies. Thanks to this dimming, astronomers are able to efficiently capture all the radio light from a larger group of galaxies, including the faintest and dustiest galaxies that have not been observed before. This makes it possible to learn about the general characteristics of typical galaxies without having to know the exact location of each one.
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