The astronomical distance over which the signal was picked up is so far the farthest. This is also the first confirmed detection of strong lensing of 21 cm emission from a galaxy.
The findings have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Using GMRT data, Arnab Chakraborty, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Physics and Trottier Space Institute of McGill University and Nirupam Roy, Associate Professor, Department of Physics, IISc have detected a radio signal from atomic hydrogen in a distant galaxy at redshift z=1.29.
“Due to the immense distance from the galaxy, the 21 cm emission line had redshifted to 48 cm by the time the signal travelled from the source to the telescope,” said Chakraborty.
The signal detected by the team was emitted from this galaxy when the universe was only 4.9 billion years old; in other words, the look-back time for this source is 8.8 billion years.
This detection was made possible by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, in which the light emitted by the source is bent due to the presence of another massive body, such as an early type elliptical galaxy, between the target galaxy and the observer, effectively resulting in the “magnification” of the signal.
“In this specific case, the magnification of the signal was about a factor of 30, allowing us to see through the high redshift universe,” explained Roy.
The team also observed that the atomic hydrogen mass of this particular galaxy is almost twice as high as its stellar mass.
These results demonstrate the feasibility of observing atomic gas from galaxies at cosmological distances in similar lensed systems with a modest amount of observing time. It also opens up exciting new possibilities for probing the cosmic evolution of neutral gas with existing and upcoming low-frequency radio telescopes in the near future.
Yashwant Gupta, Center Director at NCRA, said, “Detecting neutral hydrogen in emission from the distant Universe is extremely challenging and has been one of the key science goals of GMRT. We are happy to this new path breaking result with the GMRT, and hope that the same can be confirmed and improved upon in the future.”
The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope was built and is operated by NCRA-TIFR. The research was funded by McGill and IISc.
Astronomers use data from Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope to detect radio signal in distant galaxy