We’ve built telescopes in our backyards, high up in remote mountains, and even launched telescopes into space.
With every advance in our technology, we make amazing and surprising new discoveries about the universe. So, what’s our next advance in observatories?
Based on a new paper on arXiv, the lunar surface would be a good option.
Putting telescopes on the moon is not a new idea. NASA has already funded an exploratory grant for the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT). During the Apollo missions, astronauts placed retroreflectors on the Moon so astronomers could Measure the distance to the moon in millimeters
In this new paper, the authors summarize several well-known ideas and also introduce a new concept they call a supertelescope.
While radio telescopes on the far side of the Moon like the LCRT are probably the most popular suggestion, others include the Life Finder Telescope at Lunar Poles (LFTALP), which would be a 6.5-meter array of telescopes focused on studying the atmospheres of exoplanets While crossing it. a star.
Then there’s the Lunar Optical Ultraviolet Explorer (LOUVE), which focuses on bright ultraviolet objects. There are even proposals to create a gravitational wave observatory similar to LIGO.
The problem with all of these proposals is that they would require construction at a technical level that would be a challenge even on the ground. The idea of building array observatories and the like on the Moon is a lofty goal, but it is currently far beyond our technical capabilities.
So the authors propose a somewhat simpler idea. A basic optical telescope taking advantage of the lunar terrain. The power of an optical telescope depends largely on the size of its primary mirror and the focal length of the telescope. On Earth, the focal length can be increased by having multiple mirrors.
A super telescope could use a mirror array as the primary mirror arranged along the topography of the crater. The telescope’s detector array can then be suspended by a cable, similar to the way the detectors at the Arecibo Observatory were suspended above the grid dish.
Since the mirrors will not need to be as large, they will be much easier to install, and the overall shape of the pit will mean less ‘earthwork’ is needed to put them in place.
One variation of this idea is to place the mirrors on one side of the hole, and the devices on the other side. This would allow a very large focal length, and the observation range of such a telescope would be limited.
All of these ideas are still in their early stages. There are serious challenges that must be overcome after the construction phase.
Dust may accumulate on mirrors over time and must be removed. Although the Moon’s seismic activity is much lower than Earth’s, it can still affect the alignment of the mirrors and detectors.
But one thing is clear that we are going back to the moon, and wherever humans go they are building telescopes. The lunar observatory is only a matter of time.
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