back to article NASA wants a telescope on the far side of the Moon

NASA and the US Department of Energy hope to build a lunar telescope on the far side of the Moon that will hunt for ancient radio waves, emitted just 380,000 years after the Big Bang.  Studying the origins of the universe is difficult – there isn't much data and astronomers form hypotheses by piecing together bits of evidence …

  1. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge
    Boffin

    Sun-facing half the month?

    What I missed was whether it needs to shut down when it faces the sun, or do the types/frequencies of radio waves they're looking for vary sufficiently that they simply filter the sun's out and carry on?

    Do we have any El Reg boffins who can explain?

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Sun-facing half the month?

      I'm not a boffin but I think that when it faced the sun then it can collect power, and when it's facing away from the sun then it's getting less local noise - so there is some confidence that the data is from the early days (or even the first few minutes) of the universe.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Sun-facing half the month?

      The Sun is just a bigger point source from the Moon, as there is no atmosphere to scatter light like there is on Earth. So long as it is not pointed in the general direction of the Sun it will function just as well during the "day" as it will at "night".

      Even the biggest radio telescope dish is not perfectly able to avoid off axis reception so it might lose the kind of sensitivity necessary to receive the cosmic background radiation as well as it can at night, but there is a whole universe of other radio sources it could investigate if that's the case.

    3. AlanS

      Re: Sun-facing half the month?

      Buzz Aldrin's novel Encounter ith Tiber addressed this: the dark side protects the telescope from Earth's noise, lunar night shields the Sun's interference, and Jupiter is the next major noise source, is hidden for a good section of time, and then the dark side is really quiet. Add a data relay satellite in the L2 position and Bob's your uncle.

  2. chuckufarley Silver badge
    Joke

    It truly boggles my mind...

    ...That something as pure and natural as the Earth could cause noise, interference, or pollution. Are the scientists at NASA there isn't some sort of infection running rampant on Earth?

    1. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: It truly boggles my mind...

      " isn't some sort of infection running rampant on Earth?" Godbothereing?

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: It truly boggles my mind...

        Dear godbotherers, thank you for proving me correct. Putin the Murderer is one. The Christofascists are destroying the USA. Then look at Bolsonaro and most of the problems in Africa and MENA. Pakistanls not to good either and India is going fascist too,

        How may have been killed over the centuries?

  3. Eecahmap

    This is an eventual reason for humans to be on the moon long-term.

    Build huge telescopes of all sorts on the far side, with cables (fiber-optic?) to the near side to relay stations for quick transmission of collected data to Earth-bound scientists.

    This sort of thing was in fiction decades ago.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Half a century ago, going to the moon was science fact. Now it's science fiction

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Half a century ago, going to the moon was science fact. Now it's science fiction"

        Low tax small state, innit? In the 1980s a lot of economic nonsense was floated, now proven irredeemably false, that if only the spare $ knocking around in society was hoovered up and given to the rich, everything would be better. Well it was better for the rich. And the West is certainly beating China in the generation and preservation of appallingly rich people. But pretty much nothing else. It's almost like it was all bollocks.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "Half a century ago, going to the moon was science fact. Now it's science fiction"

          >West is certainly beating China in the generation and preservation of appallingly rich people

          Gentlemen, we can't let an oligarch gap develop

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: "Half a century ago, going to the moon was science fact. Now it's science fiction"

            "Oligarch Gap" is a good name for a band.

            (Not a name for a good band, mind.)

    2. DS999 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Its all the goddamn 5G chips in our vaccines messing with reception!

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        " 5G chips in our vaccines" And MTG's Jewish lasers

    3. Paul Kinsler

      ... with cables (fiber-optic?) to the near side

      That's going to be quite a long cable... and so - presumably - quite some mass to have to lift off from the Earth. Let alone managing to lay it out.

      1. Crypto Monad Silver badge

        Re: ... with cables (fiber-optic?) to the near side

        Just need a few Starlink-like satellites to relay the signal.

        Even just one would do, with store-and-forward.

        I would imagine they have already thought of this.

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: ... with cables (fiber-optic?) to the near side

        I tried some numbers:

        A Starship payload is >100t. A PTFE (first material I could think of that can probably handle the temperature range) cable that mass long enough to go half way around the moon would have a diameter of less than 3.3mm. The actual payload that a Starship can land on the Moon (and still return to NRHO) is currently a matter of wild speculation. 150t is a reasonable guess, so that would leave 50t for the deployment system. Space is nothing like that easy, but those numbers show a cable running half way around the Moon is not obviously insane - unless you launch it with SLS.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: ... with cables (fiber-optic?) to the near side

          "but those numbers show a cable running half way around the Moon is not obviously insane"

          True, but even with 50t of payload, that's gonna be some rover to start off with all that cable reeled up and start trundling off around half[*] of the Moons circumference without meeting some impassable terrain.

          [*] Could be less than a quarter in a "straight" line depending on how far into he far-side it needs to be for the shielding effect and still get far enough arounf to the near-side to get line of sight with Earth, but lots of craters and mountains to go around/over/through[**]

          [**} Musk might need to build a "Boring" machine for this job.

    4. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Happy

      "Monkeys on the moon, Monkeys on the moon. See how they bounce from dune to dune, Came a long way in a gold cocoon, All the way from a green balloon, Just to plant flags for the big baboon

      Look out pa!! There's monkeys on the moon!"

      - Sopwith Camel "The Miraculous Hump Returns From The Moon" album in 1973 (decades ago).

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Samsung

    Why do they need a telescope if they can just get a Samsung phone to get pictures of the moon?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Samsung

      But will it, see you on the dark side of the moon ?

  5. ShortStuff

    Telescope on the Moon?

    If they can put a telescope on the far side of the Moon, then why can't they put a simple little camera or telescope facing the Earth, and have 24 hour/day live view?

    1. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: Telescope on the Moon?

      Don't encourage the 'Flat Earth Cult et al ffs.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Telescope on the Moon?

        The flat earthers seem to be the least harmful of our resident nut-jobs

        1. dlc.usa
          Boffin

          Re: Telescope on the Moon?

          "The flat earthers seem to be the least harmful of our resident nut-jobs"

          Especially since they're not seen in positions responsible for nautical and aeronautical navigation.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Telescope on the Moon?

            But that wouldn't matter.

            As long as they applied all the magical corrections they need to fit the current mistaken observations of a round Earth - they'd come up with the same answers

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Wouldn't it be simpler

    Just to send a new Samsung phone?

    Oh, wait, they'd have to plant it upside down, of course.

  7. gandalfcn Silver badge

    Didnlt the PRC propose doing this this some time back?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Didnlt $X propose

      It's not such an exotic idea ... I would think it's been proposed quite a lot over past decades. The only interesting thing here is that it might actually happen...

  8. Scott Broukell

    When the universe came into existence,

    It did so with little resistance.

    It got tremendously hot and expanded a lot,

    And may well have an infinite persistence.

    (Scott)

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      My life is so worthless that I'm sitting here trying to pick holes in your amusing limerick...

      1. Scott Broukell

        @Brewster's Angle Grinder

        Wot, yer mean like, black holes (hehe).

        In all honesty I'm not sure I can lay claim to total originality here, taking much inspiration from both Dara O'Brien and Ogden Nash, in equal measure.

  9. deive

    We have Webb at L2, wouldn't it be good for a second at L3 for large stereo or the start of a massive virtual telescope?

    1. ian 22

      My thinking exactly. The main problem seems to be synchronization.

  10. adam 40 Silver badge
    Angel

    What do you mean "far side of the moon?"

    As we all know, the moon is flat.

    Adam 40

    President

    Flat Moon Society.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What do you mean "far side of the moon?"

      I agree .. mostly. However, in order to not have an "other" side (whether far or not), the Moon has to be not only flat but a Mobius Strip.

      Best Regards,

      A.C.O. Ward

      President

      Mobius Moon Society.

      PS: Do not listen to that Klein-Moon crowd though ... they're just nuts.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: What do you mean "far side of the moon?"

        "Mobius Moon Society" is a good name for a band.

        OK, I'll stop.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: What do you mean "far side of the moon?"

        Would that make the dark bit the Eine kleine Nachtmoon?

  11. Jedit Silver badge
    Joke

    I can imagine the result

    Today, scientists have detected and captured radio waves from the very birth of the Universe. After careful interpolation through the most advanced signal processors on Earth, the following sounds were found:

    * a loud click

    * someone shouting "No!"

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I can imagine the result

      Possible

      "People of Earth, your attention, please. This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware" on a loop for the last 49 years & 364 days?

    2. very angry man

      Re: I can imagine the result

      You beat me, how about,

      Oops

      Oh fuck

      Wrong button ,

      Did I do that,

      But sir this could be bad, I said do it

  12. SkippyBing

    Department of Energy?

    I get why NASA are involved in this but could someone explain to this right pondian why the US Department of Energy have an interest?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Department of Energy?

      Right on the DoE's website's home page:

      The Energy Department's 17 National Labs tackle the critical scientific challenges of our time -- from combating climate change to discovering the origins of our universe.

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: Department of Energy?

        But why? How does that relate to energy? It sounds like they're concerned with power production and infrastructure, or are they literally involved with energy at the fundamental level?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Department of Energy?

          "or are they literally involved with energy at the fundamental level?"

          Yep, that's gotta be it :-)

          I'm sure the IRS have a space programme too, in preparation for taxing the colonies. At least until the great Mare Imbrium Coffee Party kicks of the Loonies revolution.

  13. MacroRodent
    Boffin

    Past 50 years

    Re "There's a reason only one robotic rover has landed on the Moon in the last 50 years". Oh really?

    - The Soviet Lunokhod 2 rover landed in January 15th, 1973. OK, that is just one month over "last 50 years", but the rover operated until May of the year.

    - The Chinese Chang'e 3 landed on December 14th, 2013. It included a rover.

    - Chang'e 4, also equipped with rover, landed in 3 January 3th 2019, becoming the first probe to land on the far side of the Moon.

  14. RobThBay
    Happy

    Isn't it already occupied?

    According to moon documentary Iron Sky there's already a base there.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Isn't it already occupied?

      According to the documentary Space 1999 there's a base, but no moon.

  15. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    The Beatles

    "LuSEE-[in the] Night [sky with diamonds]"

  16. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Film

    "LuSEE-[in the] Night [sky]"

    "Lucy in the Sky is a 2019 American psychological drama film loosely inspired by the life of NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, who is portrayed by Natalie Portman."

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_in_the_Sky

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_in_the_Sky#/media/File%3ALucy_in_the_Sky_poster.jpg

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Film

      Bloody Millennials! No sense or idea of history!! They think they invented everything from sex on up!

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