A radio system with the power of a microwave took incredibly detailed photographs of the moon’s surface

(ORDO NEWS) — The radar system, less powerful than a household microwave oven, produced some of the best pictures of the Moon ever.

Using a radar beam less powerful than a microwave oven, the researchers obtained the highest resolution images of the moon ever taken from Earth.

Stunning new photographs, released Jan. 10 during a press conference at the 241st American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Seattle, Washington, capture NASA‘s Apollo 15 mission landing site, as well as Tycho Crater, a prominent feature of the South lunar highlands.

The researchers took the images with the 100-meter diameter Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia, currently the world’s largest steerable radio telescope.

The GBT emitted radio waves that illuminated the Moon, and their echoes were recorded by four 25m wide radio telescopes on the Very Long Baseline Array in Hilo, Hawaii.

At the time of image capture, the prototype radar instrument on the GBT emitted only 700 watts of power, which is “comparable to a household appliance or a bunch of light bulbs,” said Patrick Taylor, head of the radar department at the Green Bank Observatory and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

However, it “can detect features up to 1.5m around the Apollo 15 landing site and up to 5m in Tycho Crater,” he added.

A radio system with the power of a microwave took incredibly detailed photographs of the moons surface 2
Photo of the Tiko crater with a magnification of up to 5 meters

The researchers also used the instrument to collect data on a roughly 1-kilometer diameter asteroid that streaked past our planet at more than five times the distance from the Earth to the moon, Taylor said.

Due to its size and orbit, the asteroid is characterized as potentially hazardous, but Taylor said the object does not presently pose a threat to Earth.

The instrument could not only see the asteroid, but also characterize its size, speed, rotation, composition and how light scatters on its surface, all with “something less powerful than your microwave,” Taylor said.

He and his team would like to develop a better version of the same device that could deliver about 700 times more power, about 500 kilowatts.

Such a system could be used to conduct geological surveys of the Moon and search for space debris around our natural satellite, as well as to search for and characterize asteroids that could threaten our planet.

This will allow the BBT to replace Puerto Rico’s famous Arecibo Observatory, which was previously the largest radio telescope used for similar purposes but collapsed in 2020.


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