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The Moon’s Liquid Mirror Telescope can detect the first stars in the universe

This is the Giordano Bruno crater on the far side of the moon. The crater would be a great place to build a lunar telescope.

NASA / Goddard / Arizona State University

NASA slowed down a lot James Web Space Telescope you will be able to look deep into the past, illuminating the birth of the first galaxies in the universe. But some astronomers want to go even further to study the first stars. A radical concept of a lunar telescope can take us there.

A team of astronomers from the University of Texas at Austin has reconsidered the concept of a telescope with a liquid mirror on the moon, which was originally floating more than a decade ago, but was postponed by NASA. Researchers are ready to publish a new paper on the idea in a future issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Astronomers theorized the first stars formed 1

3 billion years ago, before galaxies came together. “This moment at first light is beyond the capabilities of current or near-future telescopes. That’s why it’s important to think about the ‘ultimate’ telescope, which is able to observe these elusive first stars directly at the end of time,” co-author Volker Brom said in a statement. at the MacDonald Observatory on Monday.

The lunar telescope would be unusual to break away from the use of solid mirrors as we see in James Webb. “The telescope mirror will be a rotating liquid coated with a metallic – and thus reflective – liquid,” the observatory said. Mercury is an example of a metal that works for this application.

This illustration shows what a liquid mirror telescope on the moon might look like.

Roger Angel et al. / Univ. of Arizona

The mirror will have to be 100 feet in diameter and can be built into a lunar crater at one of the moon’s poles. It can work with solar energy.

A liquid-based telescope would be easier to transport to the moon than one made with more traditional materials. Its size and location would make it incredibly powerful.

In accordance with some fun conventions for naming the Earth Telescope (see Very large array in the United States and the very large telescope in Chile), the lunar observatory will eventually be called the “Large Telescope.”

This is not the only concept of the lunar telescope that scientists are investigating. NASA is funding a study of a radio telescope idea which would turn a lunar crater into a plate. This will require the use of robots to deploy a wire mesh over a crater.

The first stars are the ultimate origin story.

“The appearance of the first stars marked a decisive transition in the history of the universe,” Brom said, “when the initial conditions set by the Big Bang gave way to ever-increasing cosmic complexity, eventually bringing life to planets, life, and intelligent beings. like us. ”

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