A team of astronomers from the University of Texas has revived an idea abandoned by NASA more than a decade ago: build a gigantic telescope on the moon. One big enough so that you can observe the first stars in the Universe, those that have only been explained in theory but we have not seen in practice.
The idea would be build the telescope on the lunar surface to avoid all kinds of light pollution and interference that can occur on Earth or near Earth. Telescopes in space like Hubble have already shown us the benefits and advantages of observing from there without interference from the atmosphere. In this case it would be to go even further, to the Moon, where there would be practically no pollution from Earth.
The telescope it would be about 100 meters wide with a liquid mirror. The initial idea that NASA studied a few years ago referred to one that was only 20 meters wide. In addition to its size, it would stand out for a solar farm next to it that would provide energy for the operation of the telescope. Finally, there would be a lunar satellite that collects that data and sends it to Earth.
But there are difficulties when it comes to building in space or going to the Moon. For logistical reasons it would not be easy to carry a gigantic glass mirror there, so propose to use reflective liquid, easier to transport. They also propose to build it in a crater that is in constant shade to avoid excess heat. One problem they still don’t know how to solve is that of moondust, a really fat problem.
Build telescopes on the moon is not a new idea. Just this year NASA decided to investigate thoroughly the idea of building a telescope taking advantage of the shape of a lunar crater. Russia has also proposed build telescopes on the Moon to protect the Earth.
Observe the origin of the Universe
A lunar telescope would have the ability to see something that no other telescope has seen so far: signs of the first stars that made up the Universe. At published pre-paper by astronomers explain how the absence of pollution would make it possible to see these stars. Of course, in 2008 NASA already discarded the idea due to the little information and studies that are related to these stars.
The theory about these stars is that they were born “only” a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. They are also believed to be hundreds of times larger than our Sun for example. But nevertheless, due to the luminosity of galaxies, it is impossible to detect them with even the most powerful telescopes we have right now. The James Webb Space Telescope, which will be released shortly and will be the most powerful, will not be able to see them either.
Reason for observing these initial stars? The same as most of the times the Universe is studied: understand our origin. The first stars made up some of the most complex elements on the periodic table and therefore shaped the Universe as we know it, in a sense. By computer and simulations it is possible to visualize this, but direct observation could answer questions as basic as their real size or if they are in groups or individually.