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Use the Moon as a new astronomical site

BOULDER, Colo. — Astronomers have always sought remote and isolated locations from which to make their precise observations of the surrounding universe. Now add another distant place: the moon.

But the international scientific community is increasingly concerned about the need to protect the far side of the Moon from human-made radiofrequency intrusions.

The dark side of the Moon always moves away from the Earth. As a result, it’s ‘silent’, shielded by the moon itself from radio frequency interference (RFI) crackling through space, pumped out by powerful terrestrial transmitters.

For years, placing a radio telescope on the far side of the moon has been considered the prime site for unparalleled studies, such as providing an extraordinary ear for signals from extraterrestrial intelligence.

shielded area

A newly created Standing Committee on Far Side Protection of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) based in Paris, France has begun to define the problem and possible solutions to protect against RFI from the dark side of the moon. , an ideal landscape, it is said, for a future radio telescope or phased array detector.

Additionally, the International Telecommunications Union, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is dedicated to defining and protecting what it calls the Moon’s Protected Area. However, future lunar exploration missions, the ITU warns, could spoil this pristine radio environment with uncontrolled radio emissions and even enhance the lunar exosphere, the ultra-thin layer of gas that acts as an atmosphere.

With the first radio telescope landing on the Moon later this year as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, radio astronomy from the Moon is beginning in earnest, said Jack Burns, space scientist at the University of Colorado, USA. block. This radio astronomy instrument is called ROLSES, he said, Photoelectron Sheath Observations of Radio Waves on the Lunar Surface. You will fly on the Intuitive Machines private lander.

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“This will be followed by a radio telescope on the far side of the Moon in 2025 and hopefully radio-dipole antenna arrays later in the decade. So now is the time to begin serious international efforts to protect the far side of the Moon as a quiet reserve for the exploration of the early universe,” Burns said. Space news.

This illustration shows a conceptual lunar crater radio telescope on the far side of the moon from Earth. Credit: JPL/Vladimir Vustyansky

unique real estate

Claudio Maccone of the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Italy is an astronomer, rocket scientist and mathematician. As chair of the new IAA committee, he is a leading advocate for the conservation of the far side of the Moon as a unique real estate for scientific pursuits.

Future space planners, Maccone argues, “must anticipate and preserve precious space resources that have not yet been polluted by mankind.” Unfortunately, the current undeclared but very real “new race to the moon” complicates matters terribly, he said.

Maccone is pushing to establish a protected antipodal circle, or PAC, a large piece of lunar land about 1,820 kilometers (1,130 miles) in diameter that would become the most protected area on the far side of the moon. He said the United Nations should recognize the CAP as an international protected area, an area free from radio contamination.

Also, the center of the far side of the moon, in particular the Daedalus crater, is advanced; its high rim would prevent Earth-generated “radio smog” from fouling a future radio telescope placed there or other astronomical equipment.

blind and blind

During this time, new ideas have emerged on how to take advantage of the special qualities of the far side of the Moon. For example, NASA’s Advanced and Innovative Concepts (NIAC) program provided funding for the study of a lunar crater radio telescope. This proposal focuses on the use of crater wall climbing robots to unfold a wire mesh to form a large parabolic reflector.

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Another NIAC-supported proposal located on the moon is FarView, a radio observatory built on the moon. This concept would use about 100,000 arrayed dipole antennas spread over hundreds of miles of lunar terrain. FarView science would support a detailed investigation of the unexplored “Cosmic Dark Age”, the conditions and processes under which the first accreting stars, galaxies and black holes formed.

“The far side of the moon is a unique place for us in the whole universe,” Maccone said. “It’s close to Earth, but shielded from the radio emissions that we ourselves create in ever-increasing amounts, and it’s making our radio telescopes increasingly blind. »

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