The Hubble telescope that has been a window to the huge cosmos past Earth’s orbit has confirmed to be extremely instrumental in answering a number of the essential questions in regards to the universe from quasars to black holes. However, with the Hubble now ageing, scientists are actually engaged on a brand new telescope, this one to be positioned in a crater on the Moon.
The Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT), which remains to be a mission idea, has been awarded $5,00,000 to assist extra work because it enters Phase-II of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.
The telescope, which is but to be formally sanctioned by Nasa could remodel humanity’s view of the cosmos.
Measure cosmic Dark Ages
One of the first targets of the telescope will probably be to measure the long-wavelength radio waves generated by the cosmic Dark Ages a interval that lasted for a number of hundred million years after the Big Bang, however earlier than the primary stars blinked into existence. “While there were no stars, there was ample hydrogen during the universe’s Dark Ages hydrogen that would eventually serve as the raw material for the first stars,” Nasa quoted Joseph Lazio, a radio astronomer as saying.
The Moon’s surface is covered in craters, and one of the natural like depressions could provide a support structure for a radio telescope dish. (Photo: Nasa)
While scientists have been studying the Big Bang for decades as to how the universe first came into existence, cosmologists know little about the Dark Ages. Astronomers think the answers to some of science’s biggest mysteries may be locked in the long-wavelength radio emissions generated by the gas that would have filled the universe during that time.
“With a sufficiently large radio telescope off Earth, we could track the processes that would lead to the formation of the first stars, maybe even find clues to the nature of dark matter,” Lazio added.
Could the far side of Moon be optimal location?
Radio telescopes on Earth can’t probe the mysterious period because the long-wavelength radio waves from that time are reflected by a layer of ions and electrons at the top of Earth’s atmosphere, a region called the ionosphere interfering with radio astronomy and drowning out the faintest signals. However, when it comes to the Moon, the far side of the natural satellite, there’s no atmosphere to reflect these signals, and the Moon itself would block Earth’s radio chatter. “The lunar far aspect could be prime actual property to hold out unprecedented research of the early universe,” the team working on the concept added.
The conceptual radio telescope could be constructed from a wire mesh dish inside a crater. (Photo: Nasa)
Deriving inspiration from Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China and the now-inoperative 305-meter-wide Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico were built inside natural bowl-like depressions radio astronomers conceptualise a vast telescope with an antenna of over a kilometre wide in a crater over 3 kilometres wide. The concept suggests using thousands of reflecting panels suspended inside the depression to make the entire dish’s surface reflective to radio waves. The receiver then hangs via a system of cables at a focal point over the dish, anchored by towers at the dish’s perimeter, to measure the radio waves bouncing off the curved surface below.
“Radio telescopes on Earth cannot see cosmic radio waves at about 10 meters or longer because of our ionosphere, so there’s a whole region of the universe that we simply cannot see,” Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at JPL and the lead researcher on the LCRT challenge advised Nasa. “But previous ideas of building a radio antenna on the Moon have been very resource-intensive and complicated, so we were compelled to come up with something different,” he added.
One of the workforce’s greatest challenges during this section is the design of the wire mesh. To keep its parabolic form and exact spacing between the wires, the mesh should be each sturdy and versatile, but light-weight sufficient to be transported. Phase-II funding by Nasa will now be used to refine the capabilities of the telescope and the varied mission approaches whereas figuring out these challenges alongside the best way.