21 cm radiation: A new probe of fundamental physics

Recording Details

Speaker(s): 
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PIRSA Number: 
08070030

Abstract

New low frequency radio telescopes currently being built open up the possibility of observing the 21 cm radiation before the Epoch of Reionization in the future, in particular at redshifts 200 ≥ z ≥ 30, also known as the dark ages. At these high redshifts, Cosmic Microwave Back-ground (CMB) radiation is absorbed by neutral hydrogen at its 21 cm hyperfine transition. This redshifted 21 cm signal thus carries information about the state of the early Universe and can be used to test fundamental physics. We study the constraints these observations can put on the variation of fundamental constants and on fundamental mass scales. We show that the 21 cm radiation is very sensitive to the variations in the fine structure constant and can in principle place constraints comparable to or better than the other astrophysical experiments. Cosmic strings, if they exist, contribute to the anisotropies in the primordial gas leaving an imprint on the 21 cm radiation. They can tell us about the fundamental mass scales involved in the theories beyond the standard model. We show that the 21 cm radiation can potentially probe cosmic strings of tension ~10−12 asumming intercommutation probability of 1. Making such observations will require radio telescopes of collecting area 10 − 106 km2 compared to ~ 1 km2 of current telescopes.