A Robotic Telescope on the Moon May Reveal the Universe’s Secrets

Scientists believe that a robotic telescope placed on the moon could surpass the capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope and potentially uncover the existence of life on exoplanets. The idea of using powerful instruments on the moon has been proposed as a way to explore astronomical phenomena that are currently invisible to ground-based and space-based observatories.

One concept that was presented at the recent Astronomy from the Moon conference involves placing a 42-foot-wide infrared telescope inside a permanently shadowed crater near one of the moon’s poles. According to astronomer Jean-Piere Maillard, such a telescope would be more sensitive than the James Webb Space Telescope and able to observe parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are currently invisible to existing telescopes.

The James Webb Space Telescope is limited by the size of its mirror and the temperature to which it can be cooled. However, an infrared telescope on the moon could be larger, colder, and therefore capable of detecting even cooler phenomena. Maillard explained that the lunar environment provides much colder spots than what can be achieved with mechanical refrigeration, allowing a telescope placed on the moon to operate at very low temperatures.

By being able to detect far infrared wavelengths, up to 200 micrometers, a lunar infrared telescope could reveal cosmic phenomena that are currently unseen. This includes studying the atmospheres of exoplanets and potentially identifying molecules like water that are only detectable beyond 25 micrometers. Such a telescope could play a crucial role in determining whether exoplanets could support life.

While the idea of a lunar infrared telescope is still in the early stages, Maillard believes that it could be possible within the next few decades, even without a permanent human presence on the moon. Robotic technology could be used to build and maintain the telescope.

In conclusion, a robotic telescope on the moon has the potential to revolutionize astronomical research by allowing scientists to study invisible phenomena and explore the possibility of life outside of our planet.

– Infrared Telescope: A telescope that uses infrared radiation to observe celestial objects.
– Electromagnetic Spectrum: The range of all types of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, infrared, and radio waves.
– Exoplanets: Planets that orbit stars outside of our solar system.

– Source article is written by Hanneke Weitering for Space.com, titled “A Robotic Telescope on the Moon Could Spot Invisible Cosmic Phenomena”