The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is the largest telescope with the highest sensitivity in the world. Extragalactic neutral hydrogen detection is one of important scientific goals of FAST.
Recently, an international research team led by Dr. Cheng Cheng from Chinese Academy of Sciences South America Center for Astronomy (CASSACA), successfully detected the neutral hydrogen line emission from three local galaxies using the FAST 19-beam receiver with only five minutes of exposure. The research paper is recently published in Astronomy & Astrophysics Letter. This is the first publication on FAST observation of extragalactic neutral hydrogen.
Neutral hydrogen gas is the most extended baryons in galaxies, while cold gas traced by CO is more concentrated to a galaxy center (red contour in Figure 1). With dynamical measurements of neutral hydrogen and CO, we can estimate the mass distribution of galaxies at different radii. Dynamical masses of these four galaxies estimated from the newly observed the neutral hydrogen line are 10 times higher than the observed baryon masses, indicating contribution of dark matter. On the other hand, dynamical masses estimated using previous CO observations were equivalent to their observed baryon masses. Therefore, the new FAST observation illustrates its ability of studying dark matter in galaxies using the neutral hydrogen 21cm emission line.
The FAST observation of these galaxies was an important part of an international research project, the Valparaíso ALMA Line Emission Survey (VALES), led by Prof. Edo Ibar from Valparaiso University in Chile. The VALES is a project of observing star forming galaxies using first-class international facilities such as SDSS, Herschel space observatory, ALMA, APEX and VLT. This international team has been publishing a series of scientific results.
FAST with the unpreceded sensitivity provides a very unique chance to observe the extra-galactic neutral hydrogen, and therefore has been adding to the list modern astronomical facilities used by this international collaboration. The FAST observation time was awarded in the Share-risk Observing call during the FAST Commissioning Phase. The team will apply for FAST time to further study the neutral hydrogen properties of VALES galaxies.
The paper can be accessed at https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/full_html/2020/06/aa38483-20/aa38483-20.html