An unprecedented low-frequency radio astronomy experiment is now underway, 18 months after entering an orbit beyond the far side of the moon.
The Netherlands-China Low Frequency Explorer (NCLE), aboard the Chinese Queqiao relay satellite, is set to begin observations at low frequencies that cannot be made on Earth because of the ionosphere, particularly between 1 to 30 megahertz (MHz).
The first targets will be the sun and Jupiter, which are expected to have strong emissions at low frequencies. But the team also hopes to pick up much weaker signals from the ‘Cosmic Dawn’—when the first stars lit up around 12 billion years ago—and even ultra-faint signals from the preceding Cosmic Dark Ages. Detections would give unprecedented insights into these formative periods of the universe.