NASA Wants to Put a Massive Telescope on the Moon

Graphic depiction of A Lunar Long-Baseline Optical Imaging Interferometer: Artemis-enabled Stellar Imager (AeSI). Credit: Kenneth Carpenter

As part of the Artemis Program, NASA intends to establish all the necessary infrastructure to create a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.” This includes the Lunar Gateway, an orbiting habitat that will enable regular trips to and from the surface, and the Artemis Base Camp, which will permit astronauts to remain there for up to two months. Multiple space agencies are also planning on creating facilities that will take advantage of the “quiet nature” of the lunar environment, which includes high-resolution telescopes.

As part of this year’s NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) Program, a team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has proposed a design for a lunar Long-Baseline Optical Imaging Interferometer (LBI) for imaging at visible and ultraviolet wavelengths. Known as the Artemis-enabled Stellar Imager (AeSI), this proposed array of multiple telescopes was selected for Phase I development. With a little luck, the AeSI array could be operating on the far side of the Moon, taking detailed images of stellar surfaces and their environments.

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A 100-Meter Rotating Liquid Mirror Telescope on the Moon? Yes Please.

New results from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope suggest the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the early Universe took place sooner than previously thought. A European team of astronomers have found no evidence of the first generation of stars, known as Population III stars, when the Universe was less than one billion years old. This artist’s impression presents the early Universe. Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser.

In the coming years, some truly awesome next-generation telescopes are going to be gathering their first light. Between space telescopes like James Webb and Nancy Grace Roman, and ground-based telescopes like the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), astronomers will be able to study aspects of the Universe that were previously inaccessible.

For instance, there are Population III stars, which are the first stars to have formed in the Universe. These stars are not observable in visible light and even next-generation facilities (like those mentioned above) will not be able to see them. But according to a team led by NASA Hubble Fellow Anna Schauer, the solution could be to build what she has named the “Ultimately Large Telescope” (ULT) on the Moon.

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