Project Details


Understanding how galaxies form and evolve across cosmic time is one of the central challenges of modern astrophysics. In the last fifteen years, astronomers have learned a great deal about distant galaxies in the early universe by studying the properties of their stars; however, much less is known about the properties of their gas, especially the relatively cool and diffuse material in which hydrogen is atomic (rather than ionized or molecular) in form.This project will take an important first step toward understanding the universe's neutral atomic hydrogen by catalyzing a new international collaboration that has been approved to conduct a 5000-hour survey with an array of radio telescopes being built in South Africa. The new array is known as MeerKAT, and the new survey has adopted the name 'Looking At the Distant Universe with the MeerKAT Array' or LADUMA. NSF funding will allow 12 U.S. scientists to attend the LADUMA survey's inaugural 'all hands' collaboration meeting in Cape Town, South Africa in late 2011 or early 2012. The local host will be Dr. Sarah Blyth of the University of Cape Town, who shares leadership duties for LADUMA with Dr. Benne Holwerda of the European Space Agency and Dr. Andrew Baker of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.The U.S. delegation will feature student participation and include representation from Rutgers, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the University of Arizona, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Colorado, the University of New Mexico, the University of North Carolina, the University of Wisconsin, and West Virginia University.The intellectual merit of this project derives principally from the immense scientific potential of a survey that will ultimately be able to detect neutral atomic gas at an epoch when the universe was less than half its present age. The collaboration's first 'all hands' meeting will bring together radio, optical, and theoretical astronomers from across the 56-person team to determine the optimal strategy for the survey and to lay the groundwork for focused preparatory efforts in key areas, such as the acquisition of complementary data with other telescopes and the establishment of joint supervision of students. Because Cape Town is the location of the MeerKAT engineering office, the meeting will also allow face-to-face discussions between LADUMA scientists and MeerKAT engineers.The broader impacts of the LADUMA collaboration include an opportunity to engage U.S. scientists and students in a new international research collaboration. All U.S. members of the LADUMA team have strong records of supervising students, and all have appointments that will facilitate recruitment of students to the survey in the future. Half of the U.S. LADUMA team have affiliations with institutions that are part of the optical Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) partnership, strengthening the bonds that already exist between these institutions and South Africa and catalyzing new relationships among the collaborators. The partnership will also result in opportunities for education and outreach in S. Africa.This award is being funded by NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering.
Effective start/end date9/1/118/31/12


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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