In a few years, a tiny radio telescope on the far side of the moon would enable researchers to look back in time to the beginning of the universe.
The Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night (LuSEE-Night), a pathfinder moon instrument, is being developed by the Science Mission Directorate of NASA, the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory, and the Brookhaven and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories of the United States Department of Energy.
Now, LuSEE-launch Night’s on a personal robotic lunar lander is planned for late 2025. (opens in new tab). It will make an effort to collect first-of-their-kind measurements from the “Dark Ages” of the universe after touching down on the far side of the moon.
In the early universe, between between 400,000 and 400 million years after the Big Bang, before stars and galaxies started to fully form, there was a period known as the Dark Ages. In order to find what researchers are calling the Dark Ages Signal, LuSEE-Night will analyse feeble radio waves from the Dark Ages from the far side of the moon using onboard antennas, radio receivers, and a spectrometer.
“Until now, we have only been able to anticipate the early cosmos using a baseline known as the cosmic microwave background. A new standard would be provided by The Dark Ages Signal, “Ane Slosar, a physicist at Brookhaven, said in a statement (opens in new tab). Also, if forecasts based on each benchmark don’t line up, new physics has been uncovered.
LuSEE- Because night is a pathfinder intended to open the way for more ambitious instruments in the future, it is not necessarily expected to make such significant advancements on its own. According to team members, the bigger effort may wind up providing answers to important cosmic mysteries including the nature of dark energy and the origin of the universe.
Because it offers something Earth cannot: a profound and deep silence, the far side of the moon is an excellent spot to search for the faint signals that could contain such information. The environment on our planet is too noisy for the supersensitive devices LuSEE-Night will use because of constant radio assault. Yet, the remote location also poses difficulties.
There, surviving requires an engineering miracle. The portion of the moon that faces away from us in the night sky, which is occasionally incorrectly referred to as “the dark side,” does, in fact, have a day/night cycle, with each phase lasting around 14 Earth days. On the far side of the moon, temperatures range from about 250 to minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (121 and minus 173 degrees Celsius).
Hence, LuSEE-Night will need to be built to endure two weeks of relentlessly punishing lunar-day sun in addition to being powered during two weeks of rigidly freezing night — and do this repeatedly. Two years is the intended mission lifetime on the lunar surface.
Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in the same statement: “In addition to the significant potential science return, demonstration of the LuSEE-Night lunar night survival technology is critical to performing long-term, high-priority science investigations from the lunar surface.
LuSEE-Night will launch when it is prepared on a future commercial lunar payload services (CLPS) mission, a programme from NASA that, according to the website of the space agency, “allows rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services from American companies for payloads that advance capabilities for science, exploration, or commercial development of the moon.”