A radio signal from the most distant galaxy has been captured by researchers in Montreal and India.
With the help of the Metrewave Radio Telescope in India, this is the first time this type of radio signal has been detected from such a large distance.
“It’s the equivalent to a look-back in time of 8.8 billion years,” Arnab Chakraborty, the study’s co-author and a post-doctoral researcher at McGill University, said in a news release.
The galaxy is at a specific wavelength, known as the 12cm line, which allows astronomers to discover secrets of the early universe.
According to the research, the signal was emitted when the universe was 4.9 billion years old – it’s currently 13.7 billion years old. This would have been before our own solar system was formed (4.5 billion years ago).
Radio waves are a kind of electromagnetic radiation that move at the speed of light). The speed of light is less than 300,000KM per second, but the reason it takes so long to travel is space is so vast, according to the study. The distance is so great that it takes “around eight minutes for radio waves to travel from the Earth to the Sun, and four years to get from here to the nearest star.”
The study also explains how researchers were able to capture the signal.
“A galaxy emits different kinds of radio signals. Until now, it’s only been possible to capture this particular signal from a galaxy nearby, limiting our knowledge to those galaxies closer to Earth,” Chakraborty said.
The signal also allowed researchers to determine that the atomic mass of the galaxy’s hydrogen gas content is nearly double that of the stars visible to us.
With funding from McGill university, these findings make it possible to detect similar signals from faraway galaxies giving researchers new opportunities to study the early makeup of the universe with these low-frequency telescopes.