A group of scientists has a plan to help radio astronomers see further into the universe’s past. The plan involves placing a radio telescope on the moon’s far side to help them learn more about the beginnings of the universe. The concept is known as the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT). The program has raised $500,000 and has entered the second phase of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program.
The LCRT sounds very complicated and would involve robots that hang the wire mesh within a crater on the far side of the moon to create the radio telescope. The telescope would measure radio waves created a few hundred million years ago, right after the Big Bang before the first stars appeared.
Scientists have long sought details from that chapter of the history of the universe, and radio waves could help reveal what happened during the mysterious time. LCRT team member Joseph Lazio said that there were no stars during this period of time, but there was plenty of hydrogen during what is known as the Dark Ages of the universe. That hydrogen would eventually act as the raw material for the first stars.
He believes that with a sufficiently large radio telescope on the moon, scientists could track processes that eventually led to the formation of the first stars and possibly learn more about the nature of dark matter. LCRT was selected during a peer review process that assessed proposals for missions that could improve humanity’s understanding of the universe and space exploration.
The lunar telescope is in its early stages and would require many years of technology development before the mission could become a reality. As for why scientists want to put the telescope on the moon rather than Earth, radio waves from very early in the universe’s history are blocked by Earth’s ionosphere, making them undetectable using Earth-based radio telescopes.