NASA develops plan to build an Arecibo-like telescope on the Moon


To build the LCRT, rock-climbing robots would suspend a kilometer-wide dish inside a lunar crater. The telescope would be nearly three times wider than Arecibo, and its lunar perch would give it a much better view of the universe. NASA announced last week that it will give a team within the agency $500,000 to refine their concept of the telescope’s design and craft a plan for building it.

“It’s very challenging, but it’s something that I think is achievable with present-day technology,” Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a NASA engineer who leads that team, told Insider. NAIC Arecibo Observatory/NSF

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, one of the world’s largest radio telescopes, pictured before its collapse. However, the telescope was at a disadvantage: Earth’s atmosphere garbles radio waves with a wavelength higher than 10 meters, so it blocked Arecibo’s view of the earliest stages of the universe. Building a telescope on the moon, far from atmospheric interference, would allow astronomers to finally see what they’ve been missing.

Arecibo discovered the first known planet beyond our solar system, mapped Venus’ surface, and detected a pair of stars that confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity. ‘We really do not know what the universe looks like’

Studying the early universe could help scientists understand the origins of dark matter, which outweighs visible matter six to one.  “This is at the stage when the first stars were being formed in the universe, or even before that, when the first matter was formed but the stars hadn’t been formed yet,” Bandyopadhyay said.

An artist’s rendering of the Space Launch System, NASA’s next moon rocket, lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “Above-10-meter wavelengths, we really do not know what the universe looks like,” Bandyopadhyay said. “We don’t know what we’re going to discover in those wavelengths.” The lunar telescope isn’t a NASA mission, but the agency wants to know more

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