The has announced a $5.8 million grant from the to expand the telescope in South Africa.
The grant will enable the HERA project's international team, led by researchers at the , to look for signals from before the "epoch of reionization" (EoR), or "cosmic dawn," roughly 400 million years after the Big Bang, a period when some 90 percent of the hydrogen atoms created in the early universe were destroyed. Using next-generation instrumentation for 21-cm cosmology, HERA will investigate the 3-D structure of the universe as stars, galaxies, and black holes made their first appearance.
Located at the , HERA's radio antennae use a low-frequency range of 50-250 MHz to detect fluctuations in emissions from neutral hydrogen gas found throughout the universe. The performance of the array will be enhanced by adding a hundred and ten antennae elements to the currently planned array of two hundred and forty antennae, extending its performance to lower radio frequencies. Work on adding antennae to the array will begin in the summer of 2018, and collection of data with the full array is slated to begin about a year later.
"These X-rays would have heated up the hydrogen surrounding galaxies and should produce detectable fluctuations in the 21cm line," said Jacqueline N. Hewitt, lead investigator on the Moore Foundation grant and director of the . "Measurements of the 'Epoch of X-rays' power spectrum could, in principle, distinguish between different scenarios for the very first generation of stars."