Telescope on the Moon

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Abbey Normal, Dec 1, 2006.

  1. Abbey Normal
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    Abbey Normal Senior Member

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    I wonder how this compares to Hubble's abiltities. Perhaps it is seen as a replacement.

    Nasa looks to a new frontier by building telescope on the MoonLewis Smith, Science Reporter

    Scientists will see farther than ever
    British astronauts to join 2018 mission

    The most powerful radiotelescope yet devised is to be built on the Moon, under plans being put together by Nasa for its 2018 lunar mission.
    Mike Griffin, the head of the US space agency, said the construction of a telescope is being “factored into” the mission.

    It is intended to push forward the exploration of space and, eventually, help to identify how mankind can reach other planets in and outside the solar system.

    A radiotelescope on the Moon would offer astronomers and physicists an unrivalled opportunity to see farther into the cosmos than ever before and in more detail.

    Data collected from the installation would help scientists to understand the history of the cosmos and provide fresh clues to identifying the laws governing the Universe.

    British astronauts could join the lunar missions in a partnership with Nasa, the Department of Trade and Industry revealed yesterday.

    The move would be a departure from current policy in which Britain concentrates on space exploration by machine rather than manned missions.

    It would also require a huge financial investment by Britain but in talks yesterday between Malcolm Wicks, the Minister for Science and Innovation, and Dr Griffin, the possibility was raised.

    “It’s certainly not ruled out at this stage,” said a DTI spokeswoman. “It is something that was mentioned by Nasa. They would be on for us to have as big a role as we can play. It will be examined by officials and ministers.”
    ...

    “The advantage is that it would totally eliminate Earth-based interference. There are windows of the radiation spectrum that we could observe from the Moon that at the moment we cannot (observe from Earth). It could be a wonderful place to have a radiotelescope.”
    ...

    Full article:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,11069-2480764,00.html
     
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  2. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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  3. Abbey Normal
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    Abbey Normal Senior Member

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  4. Abbey Normal
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    Abbey Normal Senior Member

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    Pros & cons, but it sounds like the benefts may outwiegh the drawbacks...

    Lunar Observatories: Grand Plans vs. Clear Problems
    By Jeanna Bryner
    Staff Writer
    posted: 05 December 2006
    07:14 am ET

    ...

    Placing large telescopes on the lunar surface could be fruitful since the Moon lacks clouds and any blurring atmosphere. While free space offers these attributes, the Moon also provides a permanent platform—a solid anchor—and its far side is free of radio noise.

    The Moon's far side is a dream location to some astronomers who suggest its unique qualities could be a boon to science. The far side never faces Earth and therefore is free of radio noise. As every inch of our planet gets developed and the use of cellular phones, wireless computer networks, even garage door openers and digital television become ubiquitous, radio pollution is ramping up to critical levels.

    Radio waves emitted by celestial objects are extremely weak. By the time they reach Earth-based radio telescopes the signals can easily be masked or contaminated by man-made interference.

    But radio astronomers point out that the planned architecture for getting to the Moon and staking out livable quarters has shortcomings.

    "When they start talking about all the infrastructure [on the Moon], well it turns out there are no plans to put bases on the far side of the Moon,"Lester said. "This idea that we're going to deploy this big telescope on the far side of the Moon, and magically we're looking for this plug to plug into the wall somewhere, that this power and communication is going to be there is not as justifiable."

    Still, the idea of a radio observatory on the lunar surface has support.

    "I think the low frequency radio stuff looks pretty compelling," said John Grunsfeld, a veteran astronaut and chief scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. "It's simple. It doesn't require changing the architectures people are talking about."

    Jacqueline Hewitt of the Kavli Institute of Technology at MIT is developing a Moon-friendly idea that involves printing metal onto sheets of plastic. The metal would act as dipoles for collecting radio waves. Once rolled up, the collectors could easily fit onto a rocket heading for the Moon and then easily be unrolled onto the lunar surface, Hewitt said.

    "Just because it's possible doesn't make it optimal," Lester said.

    Lunar laboratory

    entists led by Roger Angel, director of the Center for Astronomical Adaptive Optics at the University of Arizona, envision a deep-field infrared observatory at the lunar south pole using a giant liquid-mirror telescope. A once-shapeless pile of ionic liquid gets spun until it forms a perfect parabola for optics. On Earth these telescopes are limited to about six meters in diameter because the spinning whips up a wind that blurs the optics, while our planet's atmosphere can lead to distortion and absorption of light before it arrives at the telescope. [/b[]

    On the Moon, there's no atmosphere and no wind.

    The light of a distant galaxy formed long ago and before it gets here, the wavelengths have stretched as the universe has expanded. Since this low-energy, long wavelength energy isn't visible, infrared detection is optimal. Angel said his team could start with a mirror as small as 6 feet (2 meters), work up to 20 meters and then possibly create a 100-meter scope on the Moon.

    The telescope would have to remain upright, but if placed at one of the lunar poles could look at the same patch of space over long periods of time. Combined with a large aperture, the telescope would allow astronomers to view the first stars and their assembly into galaxies—a view unmatched by any current observatory on Earth or in space.

    "I think the long-term character of the observatories is very important," Angel said. "Even if funding goes away and don't have any plans for twenty years, it's still there."

    Free space

    Some scientists argue that the Moon is a harsh place to work and humans have little to no experience working in lunar conditions. What they do have, Lester explained, is much experience working in free space, including building, operating and servicing giant observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Hubble changed the idea of space science. "We came to understand that we could do the things in free space that we thought we could only do on the lunar surface," Lester said.

    "Let's do astronomy on the Moon that really needs to be there, because it's harder to do astronomy on the Moon than it is to do stuff in free space. And let's be honest with ourselves, about what kind of astronomy still belongs in free space," Lester explained.

    Here are a few other ideas astronomers are brainstorming for Moon-based science:

    -Test alternative theories of gravity: By placing mirrors on the Moon and measuring how long it takes for a laser shot from Earth to return, astronomers could come to more precise measurements of the Moon-Earth distance. This would help scientists detect any deviations from normal gravity.

    - Panspermia: It holds that life on Earth was seeded from space. By deploying sterile containers on the Moon and adding some lunar dust called regolith, scientists could perhaps observe if viruses and other life forms begin to grow, suggesting they really could have fallen from space.

    - Observe Earth: By placing a telescope on the Moon, astronomers could image our planet in even greater detail than the Apollo-era pictures of the "big blue marble."

    - Lunar building materials: The lunar soil and possible water-ice could be used for building something like a flywheel for producing solar or other power.

    Full article: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/061205_moon_clash.html
     
  5. SpidermanTuba
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    SpidermanTuba BANNED

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    From the POV of a scientist all this sounds great. The Hubble telescope has been the biggest breakthrough in observational astronomy since Galileo's first telescope. In fact, one can make the arguement that the Hubble has produced more science than any other single scientific instrument that has ever existed.

    From a practical POV though, I don't see why its neccessary to send people, or at least, very many people, to do it. We have or are capable of developing the robot technology to assemble it and put it in place with little or no human help
     
  6. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Thanks Abbey, very cool!
     
  7. Mr. P
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    Mr. P Senior Member

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