The universe has many mysteries that are yet to be unveiled. A proposed moon-orbiting spacecraft, Dark Ages Radio Explorer (DARE), aims to probe the period of the formation of the first stars, black holes and galaxies with a little help from the moon.
The radio explorer seeks to answer specific questions about the mysterious universe: When did the stars first appear? How did black holes formed or when did they first appear? The scientists behind the new spacecraft hopes that this new project will shed light on further understanding of the universe.
Equipped with a red-shifted hyperfine 21-cm (8.27 inches) transition from neutral nitrogen, DARE will go to the far side of the moon to uncover secrets of the dark ages of the universe by escaping the Earth's noisy and disruptive environment.
"The moon, in this case, is just a big blocking disk," Jack Burns, director of the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research at University of Colorado, Boulder and DARE's principal investigator, said.
"We've argued that this is a unique way, and may turn out to be effectively the only way, of probing these first stars and galaxies that occurred in our universe - that led to galaxies like the Milky Way, stars like our sun, several generations later," he added.
The universe's dark ages is characterized by an era of darkness even before the first stars, galaxies and cosmos emerged. Though there are many discoveries that happened in the past decades, there are still much to uncover and at present, scientists and astronomers hope to understand the mystery of how the universe began around 13.8 billion years ago.
It is widely known that the universe formed through the Big Bang and earliest light called cosmic microwave background (CMB) was detected from about 400,000 years after. The researchers developing DARE plan to measure neutral hydrogen. This gas filled the universe when it began.
The astronomers suggest that having the observations done in a very quiet place. They need a spot where they can perform observations, the Earth's radio waves are shielded, and Sun's rays are shielded too. By doing this, astronomers could collect high-quality data.
The team wants to submit the proposal to NASA's Explorer program this year, and if chosen, the mission is expected to launch by 2021 to 2022.