A study of fundamental limitations to statistical detection of redshifted H I from the epoch of reionization
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In this paper, we explore for the first time the relative magnitudes of three fundamental sources of uncertainty, namely, foreground contamination, thermal noise, and sample variance, in detecting the H I power spectrum from the epoch of reionization (EoR). We derive limits on the sensitivity of a Fourier synthesis telescope to detect EoR based on its array configuration and a statistical representation of images made by the instrument. We use the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) configuration for our studies. Using a unified framework for estimating signal and noise components in the H I power spectrum, we derive an expression for and estimate the contamination from extragalactic point-like sources in three-dimensional k-space. Sensitivity for EoR H I power spectrum detection is estimated for different observing modes with MWA. With 1000 hr of observing on a single field using the 128 tile MWA, EoR detection is feasible (S/N > 1 for k <~ 0.8 Mpc−1). Bandpass shaping and refinements to the EoR window are found to be effective in containing foreground contamination, which makes the instrument tolerant to imaging errors. We find that for a given observing time, observing many independent fields of view does not offer an advantage over a single field observation when thermal noise dominates over other uncertainties in the derived power spectrum.
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