A telescope placed on the surface of the Moon will allow humans to carry out many missions to explore the universe in more detail.
With every advancement in technology, we make amazing and surprising new discoveries about the Universe. So what’s our next step forward in space observation? Based on a new study posted on arXiv, the Moon’s surface would be a suitable choice for placing an observatory there.
Basically, placing a telescope on the Moon is not a new idea. In fact, NASA spent a significant amount of money to test the feasibility of the project to place the LRCT (Lunar Crater Radio Telescope) radio telescope in a crater on the Moon. During the Apollo missions, astronauts placed retroreflectors on the Moon so astronomers could measure the distance to the Moon within millimeters.
A telescope placed on the surface of the Moon will allow people to “look further” into space, compared to telescopes located on Earth or in our planet’s orbit.
While radio telescopes on the far side of the Moon such as LCRT are probably the most popular proposal, other radio telescopes including, the Search for Life at the Lunar Poles (LFTALP) Telescope are also considered a viable option. This will be a radio telescope array with a 6.5 meter wide antenna, focused on studying the atmospheres of exoplanets as they move past their star.
However, the common problem with all of these proposals is that they are technical in construction, which would be a challenge even on Earth. In other words, the idea of building a radio telescope or similar instrument on the Moon is a noble goal, but it is currently beyond our technical capabilities.
So the team proposed a somewhat simpler idea. A basic optical telescope can take advantage of the Moon’s terrain. The power of an optical telescope depends largely on the size of the primary mirror and the focal length of the telescope. On Earth, focal length can be increased by installing multiple mirrors.
Here, the supertelescope can use mirror arrays as primary mirrors arranged along the terrain of the crater. The telescope’s detector assembly can then be suspended by cables, similar to how the Arecibo Observatory detectors are suspended above.
Since the mirrors do not need to be large, they are much easier to make. Meanwhile, the geological characteristics of the crater also help us to ‘dig’ less and easily place the telescope in the right position.
A variation on this idea is to place the mirror on one side of the crater and the measuring device on the other. This will allow the telescope to have a very large focal length, but the viewing range as such a telescope will be limited.
Overall, all these ideas are still in their early stages. Not to mention, there are serious challenges that need to be overcome beyond construction. For example, Moon dust will accumulate on the mirror over time and needs to be removed. And even though the Moon has less seismic activity than Earth, it can still affect the alignment of mirrors and detectors. But one thing is clear: we will return to the Moon in the near future. Once humans have set foot on this satellite, an observatory placed on the Moon is only a matter of time.