The Basic Theoretical Framework
Cosmology is by now a mature experimental science. We are privileged to live at a time when the story of genesis (how the Universe started and developed) can be critically explored by direct observations. Looking deep into the Universe through powerful telescopes, we can see images of the Universe when it was younger because of the finite time it takes light to travel to us from distant sources. Existing data sets include an image of the Universe when it was 0.4 million years old (in the form of the cosmic microwave background), as well as images of individual galaxies when the Universe was older than a billion years. But there is a serious challenge: in between these two epochs was a period when the Universe was dark, stars had not yet formed, and the cosmic microwave background no longer traced the distribution of matter. And this is precisely the most interesting period, when the primordial soup evolved into the rich zoo of objects we now see. The observers are moving ahead along several fronts. The first involves the construction of large infrared telescopes on the ground and in space, that will provide us with new photos of the first galaxies. Current plans include ground-based telescopes which are 24–42 m in diameter, and NASA’s successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, called the James Webb Space Telescope. In addition, several observational groups around the globe are constructing radio arrays that will be capable of mapping the three-dimensional distribution of cosmic hydrogen in the infant Universe. These arrays are aiming to detect the long-wavelength (redshifted 21-cm) radio emission from hydrogen atoms. The images from these antenna arrays will reveal how the non-uniform distribution of neutral hydrogen evolved with cosmic time and eventually was extinguished by the ultra-violet radiation from the first galaxies. Theoretical research has focused in recent years on predicting the expected signals for the above instruments and motivating these ambitious observational projects.
KeywordsBlack Hole Dark Matter Star Formation Cosmic Microwave Background High Redshift
I thank my collaborators on the topics covered by this chapter: Dan Babich, Rennan Barkana, Volker Bromm, Steve Furlanetto, Zoltan Haiman, Joey Munoz, Jonathan Pritchard, Hy Trac, Stuart Wyithe, and Matias Zaldarriaga.
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