The next telescope should be built on the Moon

(ORDO NEWS) — Placing telescopes on the Moon is not a new idea. NASA has already funded a research grant for the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT). During the Apollo missions, astronauts placed reflectors on the Moon so that astronomers could measure the distance to the Moon to the nearest millimeter. In this new paper on, the authors summarize several well-known ideas and also introduce a new concept they call a hypertelescope.

A radio telescope on the far side of the Moon, such as LCRT, is perhaps the most popular proposal. Other proposals include the Life Finder Telescope At Lunar Poles (LFTALP), which would be a collection of 6.5-meter telescopes focused on studying the atmospheres of exoplanets as they transit their star. Then there’s the Lunar Optical UV Explorer (LOUVE), which focuses on bright ultraviolet objects. There are even proposals to create a gravitational wave observatory similar to LIGO.

The idea of ​​building massive observatories and the like on the Moon is a noble goal, but it is currently well beyond our technical capabilities. So, the authors propose a slightly simpler idea. A simple optical telescope that would take advantage of the lunar topography. The power of an optical telescope largely depends on the size of its main mirror and the focal length of the telescope. On Earth, the focal length can be increased by having multiple mirrors.

The hypertelescope could use a mirror array as a primary mirror positioned along the topography of the crater. The telescope’s detector array could then be suspended on a cable, similar to how the Arecibo Observatory detectors were suspended above a mesh dish.

Since the mirrors did not have to be large, they would be much easier to manufacture, and the overall crater shape would reduce the amount of “excavation” required to install them. One idea is to place mirrors on one side of the crater and instruments on the other. This would allow a very long focal length to be obtained, but the observation range of such a telescope would be limited.

All of these ideas are still in the early stages of implementation. And there are serious challenges beyond construction that would need to be overcome. Over time, dust will accumulate on the mirrors and will need to be removed. And although the seismic activity of the Moon is much lower than that of the Earth, this can still affect the placement of mirrors and detectors. But one thing is clear: a lunar observatory is just a matter of time.


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