The far side of the Moon is a land of quiet mystery. Because it always faces away from Earth, all the noisy radio transmissions that we humans blast out never reach this part of the Moon.
Scientists have dreamed of capitalizing on this unique radio silence for decades, and NASA has now brought that vision one step closer to reality by funding a proposal to build a radio telescope inside a crater on the far side of the Moon.
The proposed observatory would be one kilometer in diameter, making it “the largest filled-aperture radio telescope in the solar system,” according to a NASA abstract about the concept.
Called the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT), the proposal is the brainchild of Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. On Tuesday, LCRT was selected for initial “Phase 1” funding ($125,000) by NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which aims to explore advanced, far-future technologies.
Not only would this telescope avoid all the radio interference produced by humans, it would also be observing the universe without the veil of an atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere is quite useful for keeping us all alive, but it also blocks many wavelengths of light from reaching ground-based observatories, including low-frequency wavelengths that exceed 10 meters.
“An ultra-long-wavelength radio telescope on the far side of the Moon has tremendous advantages compared to Earth-based and Earth-orbiting telescopes,” Bandyopadhyay said in his proposal abstract.
“LCRT could enable tremendous scientific discoveries in the field of cosmology by observing the early universe in the 10–50m wavelength band (i.e., 6–30MHz frequency band), which has not been explored by humans to date.”
A newly funded concept envisions a kilometer-wide radio telescope built inside a crater on the far side of the Moon. Whoa.