NASA is planning to turn the MOON into a giant Telescope

NASA just provided information about one of its ambitious plans: installing a 1 kilometer radio telescope inside a crater on the far side of the moon. The Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) would be able to observe wavelengths and frequencies that they cannot be detected on Earth, working unobstructed by the ionosphere or by various other radio noises that surround our planet.


If the plans for the LCRT come true - and the concession money is made available - it would be the largest radio telescope in the Solar System.

Radio telescope appearance. (Credits: Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay)

"The LCRT could allow for huge scientific discoveries in the field of cosmology, observing the primitive universe in the range of 10 to 50 m (frequency range of 6 to 30 MHz), which has not been explored by humans until now", writes the robotics technologist Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in his project outline.


According to the plans, the Moon's rovers would pull a wire mesh about 1 km in diameter, inside a lunar crater that could be up to 5 km in diameter. A receiver suspended in the center of the crater would complete the system. Everything could be automated without human operators, which in turn would mean a lighter and less expensive payload for the project to literally take off.


This is still in the early stages of planning, and it is still unclear exactly which crater would be used for the job, but it is an intriguing concept that we will be looking at in the coming years.

Concept of the construction of the lunar radio telescope. (Credits: Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay)

The largest radio telescope here on Earth is the FAST, which has a diameter of 500 meters. If the LCRT eventually comes together, it would be twice as wide. FAST is already proving its worth, having already captured mysterious rapid explosions of radio or FRBs from the depths of space. The LCRT proposed here has the potential to capture many more phenomena.


Now there is an abundance of satellites with low orbit on Earth, listening to the cosmos on our planet's surface is becoming increasingly difficult. Working at low frequencies in the 6 to 30MHz frequency range, the lunar telescope may be able to tell us more about the early days of the Universe.


China and the Netherlands have already installed a radio telescope on the opposite side of the Moon, although much smaller. This telescope uses satellites to relay data back to Earth, as the LCRT will need, if we can. The team behind the concept now has nine months and up to $ 125,000 in NASA cash to see if they can develop and improve it further.


"The construction of the largest full-aperture radio telescope in the Solar System, on the opposite side of the Moon, will create a lot of public animation," wrote Bandyopadhyay and his colleagues in a 2018 article on the idea. "We anticipate that this concept unlocks the potential for innovative scientific discoveries at wavelengths that have so far been little explored by humans," they concluded.

 [ ScienceAlert ]

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