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Epoch of Reionisation Program Student Projects

A number of projects are available through the Epoch of Reionisation research group at Curtin University.

PhD projects on offer include:

Understanding ionospheric conditions in MWA EoR data

Contact: Dr Chris Jordan

Variations in the ionosphere are poorly understood, yet have a profound impact on most radio transmissions between Earth and space, and radio astronomy. MWA EoR is in a unique position to further study and understand how and why the ionosphere changes and behaves, which has huge implications for making radio transmissions more reliable into the future.

Measuring the global EoR signal using the MWA and the Moon

Contact: Dr Ben McKinley

Tiny variations in the mean temperature of the sky across the low-frequency radio spectrum provide a means to test our theories describing the evolution of the early Universe. Traditionally, single-dipole antennas have been used to try to detect this weak signal in the presence of bright astronomical foregrounds. In this project, you will develop, test and improve techniques to measure this global temperature using a novel, alternative method, which aims to measure the signal with an interferometer, using the Moon as a thermal reference source.

Eliminating the effect of the ionosphere in MWA EoR data

Contact: Dr Chris Jordan

The detection of the signature from the EoR is an ambitious project, and only by fully characterising our instrument and all intervening signals between us and the EoR do we have a hope to reach it. The ionosphere, despite being in extreme proximity relative to traditional impediments to the EoR detection, affects us in both powerful and subtle ways. Detection and removal of ionospheric effects is thus critical to our detection of the EoR.

These projects may be supported by ASTRO 3D Scholarships

3rd year and honours projects on offer include:

Applications of wavelets for exploring the Epoch of Reionisation

The Epoch of Reionisation (EoR) marks a crucial period in the evolution of the early Universe, during which the first collapsed structures (stars and galaxies) illuminated the cosmos with ionizing radiation and destroyed the neutral hydrogen gas permeating the intergalactic medium. We can probe the evolution of structure in this period by studying the spatial and temperature distribution of neutral hydrogen, through the redshifted emission line from its nucleus. This measurement can be achieved with low-frequency radio telescopes, such as the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and future Square Kilometre Array (SKA), in the Western Australian desert. We use statistical techniques, such as a spatial power spectrum, to combine data from the weak signal in the hope of a detection. These techniques rely on a Fourier Transform of the data, but are limited by their ability to balance increased sensitivity (more data) with biased results (due to evolution of the signal over redshift). We recently proposed using a wavelet basis to address this deficiency. This project will explore other wavelet basis functions, to see their effect on a signal and foreground galaxy model, already developed. This project would suit a student with an interest in and knowledge of statistical techniques, such as the Fourier Transform and wavelets, and some knowledge of basic computing.

Defining the observing strategy for the SKA Epoch of Reionisation Experiment

Contact: A/Prof Cathryn Trott, Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker

The statistical Epoch of Reionisation program for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) comprises a three-tiered experiment: shallow and wide, medium, deep and narrow. The deepest observations are required for probing the power spectrum of brightness temperature fluctuations at low frequencies, where the experiment is thermal-noise limited. The shallow observations serve the higher frequencies, where sample variance is important. The choice of observing fields for these experiments is crucial; balancing sky coldness, availability of sufficient data calibrators, and frequency-dependent field-of-view. Using the GLEAM catalogue of the radio sky at 80-230 MHz, this project will overlay the SKA frequency-dependent sky response (primary beam) over the sky, and extract useful field-dependent statistics to help define the observing strategy. This work will feed directly into the Observational Strategies working group of the EoR/Cosmic Dawn Key Science Project.

For all projects available at ICRAR – Curtin node, see here.

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