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The redshifted 21cm line of neutral hydrogen (Hi), potentially observable at low radio frequencies (~50–200 MHz), should be a powerful probe of the physical conditions of the inter-galactic medium during Cosmic Dawn and the Epoch of Reionisation (EoR). The sky-averaged Hi signal is expected to be extremely weak (~100 mK) in comparison to the foreground of up to 104 K at the lowest frequencies of interest. The detection of such a weak signal requires an extremely stable, well characterised system and a good understanding of the foregrounds. Development of a nearly perfectly (~mK accuracy) calibrated total power radiometer system is essential for this type of experiment. We present the BIGHORNS (Broadband Instrument for Global HydrOgen ReioNisation Signal) experiment which was designed and built to detect the sky-averaged Hi signal from the EoR at low radio frequencies. The BIGHORNS system is a mobile total power radiometer, which can be deployed in any remote location in order to collect radio frequency interference (RFI) free data. The system was deployed in remote, radio quiet locations in Western Australia and low RFI sky data have been collected. We present a description of the system, its characteristics, details of data analysis, and calibration. We have identified multiple challenges to achieving the required measurement precision, which triggered two major improvements for the future system.
We present the results of an approximately 6 100 deg2 104–196 MHz radio sky survey performed with the Murchison Widefield Array during instrument commissioning between 2012 September and 2012 December: the MWACS. The data were taken as meridian drift scans with two different 32-antenna sub-arrays that were available during the commissioning period. The survey covers approximately 20.5 h < RA < 8.5 h, − 58° < Dec < −14°over three frequency bands centred on 119, 150 and 180 MHz, with image resolutions of 6–3 arcmin. The catalogue has 3 arcmin angular resolution and a typical noise level of 40 mJy beam− 1, with reduced sensitivity near the field boundaries and bright sources. We describe the data reduction strategy, based upon mosaicked snapshots, flux density calibration, and source-finding method. We present a catalogue of flux density and spectral index measurements for 14 110 sources, extracted from the mosaic, 1 247 of which are sub-components of complexes of sources.
Significant new opportunities for astrophysics and cosmology have been identified at low radio frequencies. The Murchison Widefield Array is the first telescope in the southern hemisphere designed specifically to explore the low-frequency astronomical sky between 80 and 300 MHz with arcminute angular resolution and high survey efficiency. The telescope will enable new advances along four key science themes, including searching for redshifted 21-cm emission from the EoR in the early Universe; Galactic and extragalactic all-sky southern hemisphere surveys; time-domain astrophysics; and solar, heliospheric, and ionospheric science and space weather. The Murchison Widefield Array is located in Western Australia at the site of the planned Square Kilometre Array (SKA) low-band telescope and is the only low-frequency SKA precursor facility. In this paper, we review the performance properties of the Murchison Widefield Array and describe its primary scientific objectives.
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