First upper limits on the 21 cm signal power spectrum from cosmic dawn from one night of observations with NenuFAR

S. Munshi*, F. G. Mertens, L. V.E. Koopmans, A. R. Offringa, B. Semelin, D. Aubert, R. Barkana, A. Bracco, S. A. Brackenhoff, B. Cecconi, E. Ceccotti, S. Corbel, A. Fialkov, B. K. Gehlot, R. Ghara, J. N. Girard, J. M. Grieß Meier, C. Höfer, I. Hothi, R. MériotM. Mevius, P. Ocvirk, A. K. Shaw, G. Theureau, S. Yatawatta, P. Zarka, S. Zaroubi

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The redshifted 21 cm signal from neutral hydrogen is a direct probe of the physics of the early universe and has been an important science driver of many present and upcoming radio interferometers. In this study we use a single night of observations with the New Extension in Nançay Upgrading LOFAR (NenuFAR) to place upper limits on the 21 cm power spectrum from cosmic dawn at a redshift of z = 20.3. NenuFAR is a new low-frequency radio interferometer, operating in the 10- 85 MHz frequency range, currently under construction at the Nançay Radio Observatory in France. It is a phased array instrument with a very dense uv coverage at short baselines, making it one of the most sensitive instruments for 21 cm cosmology analyses at these frequencies. Our analysis adopts the foreground subtraction approach, in which sky sources are modeled and subtracted through calibration and residual foregrounds are subsequently removed using Gaussian process regression. The final power spectra are constructed from the gridded residual data cubes in the uv plane. Signal injection tests are performed at each step of the analysis pipeline, the relevant pipeline settings are optimized to ensure minimal signal loss, and any signal suppression is accounted for through a bias correction on our final upper limits. We obtain a best 2σ upper limit of 2.4× 107 mK2 at z = 20.3 and k = 0.041 hcMpc-1. We see a strong excess power in the data, making our upper limits two orders of magnitude higher than the thermal noise limit. We investigate the origin and nature of this excess power and discuss further improvements to the analysis pipeline that can potentially mitigate it and consequently allow us to reach thermal noise sensitivity when multiple nights of observations are processed in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA62
Number of pages26
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Volume681
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1-Jan-2024

Keywords

  • Dark ages
  • First stars
  • Methods: data analysis
  • Reionization
  • Techniques: interferometric

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