Moon Crater as Giant Telescope? This Is the Researchers’ New Plan

Moon Crater as Giant Telescope

Perhaps the wildest of the chosen projects is a plan to put a radio telescope on the Moon that could give us a glimpse of some of the earliest moments after the Big Bang.

NASA published a new scientific proposal that suggests a large lunar crater should be turned into a big radio telescope. There would be multiple benefits to having a radio telescope on the Moon, according to NASA, which says that orbiting and Earth-based telescopes are subjected to interference and more. The crater telescope, if it ever proceeds to the point of being an actual project, would involve builder robots.

Moon Crater as Giant Telescope ? This Is the Researchers’ New Plan
The radio telescope would be made my putting a receiver and wire mesh in a craterCredit: NASA

This ambitious plan that seeks to transform a crater on the far side of the Moon into a massive one-kilometre (3,281-foot) radio telescope. If it comes to fruition, that would be approximately twice the size of China’s recently opened FAST telescope, the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. And almost certainly a whole lot more challenging to create.

“We are proposing to study the feasibility of building an ultra-long wavelength radio telescope, inside a lunar crater on the far side of the moon,” robotics technologist Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who proposed the project, told Digital Trends. “This Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) will be the largest filled-aperture radio telescope in the solar system.”

Radio telescope dishes need to be a curved parabolic form to capture waves and mirror them to a receiver at the centre. This is why a crater would make a great normal dish and would call for a lot fewer machines and construction in space. In accordance with the job group, this open radio telescope would be the greatest in the photovoltaic system.

Scientists think they could use it to observe the universe in much more detail because the Earth’s atmosphere and radio noise would not be in the way. To make this vision a reality, scientists will land a probe within the crater, before using rovers to unfold a mesh antenna This project, which is still in the early stages of development, will hopefully be able to measure previously unexplored wavelengths and frequencies, with the centre of the crater containing a suspended receiver capable of picking up frequencies.

It’s believed this telescope will allow scientists to learn more about how exactly the universe inflated within a second following the Big Bang, allowing them to observe faint ‘fingerprints’ left behind on the cosmos that haven’t previously been picked up by Earth’s telescopes.

Plans for building the telescope involve robots putting a 0.6-mile diameter wire-mesh across a crater. In the centre of the crater would be a suspended receiver that could pick up frequencies. It could even be maintained by astronauts eventually as Nasa plans to build an Artemis Base Camp on the Moon.

Moon Crater as Giant Telescope ? This Is the Researchers' New Plan
Artemis I projected flightpath | Source: NASA (2019)

Moon Crater as Giant Telescope

“LCRT could enable tremendous scientific discoveries in the field of cosmology by observing the early universe in the 10– 50m wavelength band (i.e., 6–30MHz frequency band), which has not been explored by humans to-date.”

As well, a telescope in this location would have the benefit of the Moon acting as a physical shield to help protect against unwanted noise and interference from the ionosphere, satellites, and more. Overall, NASA anticipates that a telescope like this could offer ‘tremendous scientific discoveries’ — assuming, of course, that such a telescope is ever built.

Before we can even think about that, NASA would need to officially approve the project Moon Crater as Giant Telescope for further development. The grant program that awarded funding for the project is intended to nurture “visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions” with new concepts. However, for now, Bandyopadhyay stressed that “LCRT isn’t currently a NASA mission.” After that would come the challenging task of making the radio telescope a reality.

This would involve using moon rovers to install a wire mesh inside a lunar crater. A suspended receiver would also have to be put into place in the centre of the crater. All of this could reportedly be automated with no humans having to be directly involved on the moon’s surface.

“The objective of [the phase one NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts grant] is to study the feasibility of the LCRT concept and address the biggest technical challenges,” Bandyopadhyay said.

“During phase one, we will mostly be focusing on the mechanical design of LCRT, [searching for] suitable craters on the moon, and comparing the performance of LCRT against other ideas that have been proposed.”

Should all go well, though, this could well prove to be the radio telescope of the future. It could join FAST in helping detect assorted phenomena from the deepest depths of space.

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