Monday, January 12, 2009
hey neighbors, turn that radio down
Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission - ARCADE's mission was to search the sky for heat from the first generation of stars.
Instead, it found a cosmic puzzle.ARCADE's revolutionary design makes it super-sensitive to cosmic noise. Chilled to 2.7 degrees above absolute zero by immersion into more than 500 gallons of liquid helium, each of ARCADE's seven radiometers alternately views the sky and a calibration target.
A mysterious screen of extra-loud radio noise permeates the cosmos, preventing astronomers from observing heat from the first stars. The balloon-borne ARCADE instrument discovered this cosmic static (white band, top) on its July 2006 flight. The noise is six times louder than expected. Astronomers have no idea why.