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Astronomy from the Moon: the next decades - POSTPONED

Discussion meeting

Location

The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG

Overview

This meeting is postponed. More details to follow.

Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Joseph Silk FRS, Professor John Zarnecki, Professor Ian Crawford and Dr Martin Elvis.

Observatory on the Moon. Credit: NASA

Low-frequency radio astronomy from the radio-shielded lunar far side can have a unique science impact on cosmology potentially at modest cost. The permanently shadowed lunar craters may offer advantages for passive cooling of infrared telescopes. This meeting will examine these and other potential uses of the Moon as a platform for astronomical observations and the policy implications.

The schedule of talks and speaker biographies are available below. Speaker abstracts are also available below. Recorded audio of the presentations will be available on this page after the meeting has taken place. Meeting papers will be published in a future issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A

Attending this event

This meeting is postponed. More details to follow. 

Enquiries: contact the Scientific Programmes team

Schedule of talks

18 March

09:00-12:30

Session 1

4 talks Show detail Hide detail

09:05-09:30 Getting astronomy to the Moon in the 2020s

Dr James Carpenter, ESA, The Netherlands

Abstract

Recent years have seen a resurgence of activity at the Moon, with new missions from established and new actors and the emergence of the first private sector missions. There are big plans internationally to return to the Moon and to establish sustained activity there. While the scale and scope of the future on the Moon cannot be predicted with certainty we can expect that new opportunities for astronomy from the Moon will come. 

The European Space Agency too is planning to access the Moon in the coming decade, together with partners, through the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P). This programme will establish a human tended station in lunar vicinity, called the Gateway, together with international partners and access the surface of the Moon for science and exploration. Access to the surface will be achieved through cooperation with international partners and through the development of a European lander capability, which will be able to deploy both cargo and scientific missions. 

One priority area for ESA for the future in the coming decade is to deploy long wavelength radio astronomy receivers on the lunar far side. This would test and demonstrate the unique suitability of the lunar environment for cosmic dark ages astronomy, to be followed by the first measurements of the cosmologically important red shifted Hydrogen I line. This would feed forwards to the first interferometer through a network of antennas. 

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09:30-09:45 Discussion

09:45-10:15 Transformative science from the lunar farside: observations of the dark ages and exoplanetary systems at low radio frequencies

Professor Jack Burns, University of Colorado Boulder, USA

Abstract

The farside of the Moon is a pristinely quiet platform to conduct low radio frequency observations of the early Universe’s Dark Ages, as well as space weather and magnetospheres associated with habitable exoplanets. Professor Burns will describe NASA-funded concept studies of a lunar-orbiting spacecraft, DAPPER (Dark Ages Polarimeter PathfindER), that will measure the 21-cm global spectrum at redshifts 40–100, and an array of low frequency dipoles on the lunar farside surface, FARSIDE (Farside Array for Radio Science Investigations of the Dark ages and Exoplanets).

DAPPER observations (17–35 MHz), using a single cross-dipole antenna, can measure the amplitude of the 21-cm spectrum to the level required to distinguish the standard ΛCDM cosmological model from that of additional cooling models possibly produced by dark matter properties such as annihilation, decay, temperature, and interactions. 

FARSIDE is a Probe-class concept with a notional architecture consisting of 128 dipole antennas deployed across a 10 km area by a rover, and tethered to a base station for central processing, power and data transmission to the Lunar Gateway. FARSIDE would provide the capability to image the entire sky each minute in 1400 channels spanning frequencies 0.01–40 MHz. This would enable near-continuous monitoring of the nearest stellar systems in the search for the radio signatures of coronal mass ejections and energetic particle events, and would also detect the magnetospheres for the nearest candidate habitable exoplanets. FARSIDE would also measure the Dark Ages global 21-cm signal and provide a pathfinder for power spectrum measurements.

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10:15-10:30 Discussion

10:30-11:00 Coffee

11:00-11:30 Discovering the sky at the longest wavelength with a lunar orbit array

Professor Xuelei Chen, NAOC, China

Abstract

Due to ionosphere absorption and the interference by natural and artificial radio emissions, astronomical observation from the ground becomes very difficult at the wavelength of decameter or longer, which we shall refer to as ultralong wavelengths below. This unexplored part of the electromagnetic spectrum has the potential of great discoveries, notably in the study of cosmic dark ages and dawn, but also in heliophysics and space weather, planets and exoplanets, cosmic ray and neutrinos, pulsar and interstellar medium, extragalactic radio sources, and even SETI. The far side of the moon provides an ideal place for carrying out such observations. A lunar orbit array can be a practical first step of opening up the ultralong wave band. Compared with a lunar surface observatory, the lunar orbit array is simpler and more economical, as it does not need to make the risky and expensive landing, can be easily powered with solar energy, and the data can be transmitted back to Earth when it is on the near-side part of the orbit. Here Professor Chen describes the Discovering Sky at the Longest wavelength (DSL) project, which will consist a mother satellite and 6–9 daughter satellites, flying on the same circular orbit and forming a linear array. The data is collected by the mother satellite which computes the interferometric cross-correlations (visibilities) and transmits the data back to Earth. The whole array can be deployed on the lunar orbit with a single rocket launch. The project is under intensive study in China. 

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11:30-11:45 Discussion

11:45-12:15 Unveiling the Cosmic Dawn from land, water and the far side

Professor Ravi Subrahmanyan, Raman Research Institute, India

Abstract

The astrophysics and timing of the formation of the first stars in the earliest ultra-faint galaxies is an unsolved problem. Measurement of the evolution in the spin temperature of neutral hydrogen at the end of the dark ages, when the first light emerged from the first stars in the cosmic dawn, is a key probe of the evolution of the thermal state of the gas and that of the ambient radiation field. The redshifted 21-cm from neutral hydrogen, which is a measure of the spin temperature, is a signal that traces the thermal baryon evolution. This global or all-sky signal profile in the redshift range 30 to 6 traces the history between the emergence of first light in the first collapsed objects and almost complete reionisation of intergalactic atomic hydrogen. Spectral radiometers have today attained the finesse to usefully constrain the astrophysics in cosmic dawn. Professor Subrahmanyan will describe the SARAS 2 radiometers that were deployed in remote radio-quiet sites on the ground in India, and placed first constraints on models for cosmic dawn and subsequent reionisation. SARAS 3 radiometers have been designed for improved performance by deploying on water, improving efficiency and avoiding interactions with complex ground beneath the sensors of the electromagnetic field. A space mission PRATUSH is being developed with the Indian Space Research Organisation for deploying a radiometer in lunar orbit for observing from the far side, thus avoiding terrestrial radio frequency interference, the ionosphere and unwanted coupling to substrates in the vicinity of the sensors.

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12:15-12:30 Discussion

12:30-13:30 Lunch

13:30-17:00

Session 2

5 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Professor Ian Crawford, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

13:30-14:00 The limits of cosmology: role of the Moon

Professor Joseph Silk FRS, University of Oxford, UK, Institut Astrophysique de Paris, France and Johns Hopkins University, USA

Abstract

The lunar surface allows a unique way forward in cosmology. The far side provides a unique radio-quiet environment for probing the dark ages via 21 cm interferometry back to epochs before any stars had formed. We will search for elusive clues on the nature of the infinitesimal fluctuations created in an inflationary epoch from which all structure in the universe emerged. Far-infrared telescopes in dark and cold lunar craters will probe back to the first months of the Big Bang, when the cosmic blackbody radiation was created, and study spectral distortions that are created as a consequence of the first galaxies and black holes to have formed. The cosmology goals are compelling and a stable lunar platform will enable construction of telescopes that can access trillions of modes in the sky, providing unprecedented power for the exploration of our cosmic origins.

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14:00-14:10 Discussion

14:10-14:30 Reaching small scales with low frequency imaging

Dr Leah Morabito, Durham University, UK

Abstract

Placing constraints on primordial non-Gaussianity is crucial for distinguishing between different inflationary models, which ultimately dictate the large scale structure and matter distribution we see in the Universe today. Currently, measurements of the matter power spectrum from the CMB only probe scales up to k~0.1 Mpc^-1 , but reaching smaller angular scales (higher values of k) can extend these constraints. Measuring the HI matter power spectrum at redshifts above ~30 avoids complications with astrophysical processes like reionisation and galaxy formation. In this paper, Dr Morabito investigates what values of k can be reached for the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR), which can achieve 1 arcsecond resolution at 50 MHz. Combining this with a technique to isolate the spectrally smooth foregrounds to a wedge in k-space, Dr Morabito demonstrates what values of k we can feasibly reach within observational constraints.

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14:30-14:50 Antenna technologies for Far-Side Radio Astronomy

Dr Kristian Zarb Adami, University of Oxford, UK and L-Università ta' Malta, Malta

Abstract

This talk will focus on the developments in Low-Frequency Radio Astronomy technology, from single antenna global signal detection of the Epoch of Reionisation to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) which will be capable of imaging the high-redshift H1-signal from the cosmic dawn through to the Epoch of Reionisation. Dr Zarb Adami will argue that the future low-earth orbit satellite missions such as STARLINK and the limiting characteristics of the ionosphere to carry out low-frequency astronomy and cosmology will naturally lead us to considering the deployment of radio antennas on the far-side of the moon. Dr Zarb Adami will end the talk by describing technologies that have already been developed for the robotic deployment of antenna arrays and describe how these automated methods for generating radio apertures can be trialled in remote areas on Earth.

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14:50-15:00 Discussion

15:00-15:30 Coffee

15:30-16:00 Peering into the Dark Ages via Lunar Radio Interferometry

Professor Leon Koopmans, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Abstract

Detection of the redshifted 21-cm signal of neutral hydrogen from the Dark Ages, Cosmic Dawn and Epoch of Reionization (EoR) promises a new avenue to study fundamental physics, as well as early star and galaxy formation, during the first billion years of the Universe. The quest to detect this 21-cm signal has been arduous with current ground-based radio telescopes. It has not yet been achieved, although steady progress is being made. Professor Koopmans will provide an overview of what can be learned from observing these early cosmic phases, and present a broad spectrum of ongoing experiments aiming to detect this weak 21-cm signal. Whereas ground-based experiments might study the Epoch of Reionization and late Cosmic Dawn, the Dark Ages provide unprecented tests of fundamental physics. Observing the latter, however, requires space-based radio interferometry on a massive scale. Professor Koopmans will discuss the requirements of such observations, in particular, focusing on the concept of CoDEX, which was proposed for ESA's Voyage 2050. They will also present an update from the Dutch-Chinese NCLE pilot mission in Lunar L2, which is the first attempt to observe the global 21-cm signal from space in the redshift regime of the Dark Ages.

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16:00-16:15 Discussion

16:15-16:45 Cosmology and fundamental physics from the Moon

Professor Licia Verde, ICREA and Institut de Ciències del Cosmos, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

Abstract

In cosmology the signal to noise of virtually any measurement (with only few exceptions) depends on the number of modes sampled. In other words, cosmologists use the Universe as they observe it as if it was a detector: the bigger the detector the better the signal-to-noise. Quantities that can be measured include: the properties of the initial conditions of the Universe, and of the Universe’s components.

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) has been fundamental in establishing the standard cosmological model, constraining its parameters and broadly testing the physics it is built upon. The information content of the primary temperature CMB anisotropies has however been saturated. Observations of the primary CMB temperature anisotropy, being essentially a 2 dimensional map of the early Universe, enclose a limited amount of information.

To overcome this limitation, optical and NIR telescopes are striving to produce three (or almost three)- dimensional surveys of galaxies covering as much sky as possible. This strategy, even for future surveys, is however limited to redshifts < than about 2, where there are enough galaxies and they can be mapped. But this represents only 5% of the total available observable volume. By tracing the neutral hydrogen at much higher redshifts at radio frequencies, much more volume can be covered, in principle up to 80% of all the 'in principle' observable Universe. Detecting such feeble radio signal with enough resolution, however requires an exceptionally 'dark' and quiet location and a large enough telescope. Despite the enormous investment needed, the rewards are great: precision tests on the nature of gravity, properties of dark matter and dark energy, inflationary physics etc.

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16:45-17:00 Discussion

17:00-18:00

Poster session

19 March

09:00-12:30

Session 3

6 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Dr Martin Elvis, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, USA

09:00-09:20 Lunar optical interferometry and hypertelescope for direct imaging at high resolution

Professor Antoine Labeyrie, Collège de France, France

Abstract

Moon-based optical interferometers, proposed since 1990, are expected to greatly benefit from the absence of atmosphere, and also from the many dark craters usable for nesting a fixed concave array of mirrors. Hypertelescopes are extended versions utilising many sub-apertures and a 'densified' beam combination scheme. Providing direct high-resolution images of compact resolved sources, or clusters of such sources, the scheme also improves the limiting magnitude, identical to that of a monolithic telescope having the same collecting area. Since ESA’s comparative study of Moon-based and space-based hypertelescope concepts, which concluded in favour of the latter unless a manned lunar station becomes established, both options are further studied, including a space flotilla of many small mirrors, potentially spanning up to 100,000 km and controlled by laser beams. On the Moon, two versions are proposed: a) a short-term version similar to the terrestrial 'Ubaye hypertelescope' prototype currently tested in a high south-Alpine valley. The lunar version can be nested in a dark crater, with a focal camera suspended from a traversing cable  above an active paraboloidal array of nearly fixed small mirrors. Its the meta-aperture diameter may reach a few kilometers. b) A larger meta-aperture, spanning 100km, may be feasible with a  laser-levitated focal camera 200km above. This latter version is expected to provide direct spectro-images of Earth-like exoplanets with  30x30 resel resolution, usable for searching seasonal variations indicative of photosynthetic life. Both versions are also suitable for observing stellar, galactic and extra-galactic sources such as AGNs, and neutron stars, the angular size of which is resolvable with a 100,000km flotilla.

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09:20-09:40 Is the Moon the future of infrared astronomy?

Dr Jean-Pierre Maillard, Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, France

Abstract

With the perspective of future permanent basis on the Moon, the development of astronomical sites on our natural satellite becomes a subject to consider. The history of the progress of infrared astronomy over the last 50 years, a spectral domain essential for the study of the origins of stars, then galaxies and of planets, can help to understand the unique capabilities that a future lunar implementation could offer. A very large multi-mirror telescope, up to 100m could become feasible, thanks to the low gravity on the Moon. Installed in the bottom of a crater at the northern or the southern pole, it would be permanently, passively cooled at a temperature as low as 26K. Such a big telescope, combined to the advantages of transparency of space, would be reaching a sensitivity and a resolution on a continuous spectral domain up to 400 microns, making possible the detection of the most distant galaxies and the detailed analysis of terrestrial exoplanets. No competitor on ground and in space can be possible, except in the sub-millimetric domain. However, due to the enormous cost of such a project, its pertinence must be examined. 

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09:40-09:45 Discussion

09:45-10:05 Observing the Earth as an exoplanet from the moon, to prepare for detecting life on Earth-like exoplanets

Dr Daphne M Stam, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

Abstract

LOUPE, the Lunar Observatory for Unresolved Polarimetry of Earth, is a small, robust spectropolarimeter for monitoring the Earth from the moon, as if it were an exoplanet. More than 4000 exoplanets are currently known, including numerous small, presumably rocky, Earth-like planets in the habitable zones of their stars. While upcoming space telescopes like JWST and ESA's ARIEL will be able to characterise atmospheres of giant exoplanets through transit spectroscopy, the characterisation of Earth-like exoplanets requires the direct detection of a planetary signal. In particular polarimetry promises to be a strong tool for such characterisation as the state of polarisation of light that is reflected by a planet is very sensitive to the properties of the atmosphere and surface, and for signatures of life.

From the moon, LOUPE's continuous view of the Earth will allow it to record spectral changes in total flux and polarisation during the planet's daily rotation, over all phase angles, and across seasons. LOUPE's unique data will be used to test numerical codes that predict signals of Earth-like exoplanets, to test algorithms that retrieve planet properties, and thus to fine-tune the technological design and observational strategies of future space observatories. Dr Stam will present both the science case and the technology behind LOUPE's design.

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10:05-10:25 OWL-Moon, a giant lunar telescope, and beyond

Dr Jean Schneider, Paris Observatory, France

Abstract

Dr Schneider will first describe some configurations of OWL-Moon such as a single 50-100 m telescope and/or several 20-30 metre class telescopes. 20-30 metre telescopes will become routine in 2050 and the ESA Moon Village initiative will provide the desirable infrastructure. Dr Schneider will discuss the advantages of a telescope on the Moon: no wind, low gravity and dark sky. OWL-Moon will be located at one of the lunar poles (or both of them) to allow for uninterrupted observations of targets. In addition, Dr Schneider will describe a novel idea: an Earth-Moon Intensity Interferometer, allowing for a 100 metre resolution at the distance of the Alfa Cen planetary system. Dr Schneider will then review the most interesting science cases, from Cosmology (such as high resolution imaging of lensed quasars) to Exoplanets (such as biosignatures, volcanoes, glint of exo-oceans and transits of exoplanet moutains) and more prospective ones such as communications with future interstellar probes. Dr Schneider will end with a few other aspects of a Moon base, including a test of Quantum Mechanics.

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10:25-10:30 Discussion

10:30-11:00 Coffee

11:00-11:30 The lunar surface as recorder of astrophysical processes

Professor Ian Crawford, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

Abstract

The lunar surface has been exposed to the space environment for billions of years and during this time will have accumulated records of a wide range of astrophysical phenomena. These include solar wind particles implanted in the lunar regolith, and thus a record of the past evolution of the Sun, and cosmogenic products of galactic cosmic rays interacting with the surface, and thus a record of the galactic environment of the Solar System including past proximity to supernova explosions. In addition, the lunar surface may have directly accreted material from the local interstellar medium, including supernova ejecta and material from interstellar clouds encountered by the Solar System on its journey around the Galaxy. The lunar surface is likely to be ideal, and perhaps unique, in its ability to collect and preserve these records owing to the Moon’s relatively low level of geological activity, absence of atmosphere, and, for most of its history, lack of magnetic field. Crucially, and unlike equally old and exposed asteroid surfaces, the Moon has been sufficiently geologically active throughout its history to bury, and thus both preserve and ‘time stamp’, ancient astrophysical records in the near sub-surface. In a sense, therefore, the lunar surface can be viewed as a giant ‘telescope’ which has been observing and recording astrophysical processes for 4.5 billion years. However, fully accessing these astronomical records may require significant scientific infrastructure on the lunar surface, perhaps comparable to that provided by scientific outposts in Antarctica. Such a lunar surface infrastructure would also support other aspects of lunar-based astronomy, including the deployment and maintenance of a wide range of astronomical instruments.

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11:30-11:45 Discussion

11:45-12:15 The lunar dust environment and the Next Generation Lunar Retroreflector

Professor Douglas G Currie, University of Maryland, College Park, USA

Abstract

The top layer of the lunar regolith is composed of a very fine 'dust', which is unlike any material we find on Earth. The physical description, physical properties, and method and rate of formation of this unique material will be discussed. This dust is composed of extremely fine particles with shapes that have made drilling into the regolith extremely difficult. In addition, various observations addressing the dynamics of the motion and elevation of the dust will be considered. Various practical aspects and problems of this lunar dust will be addressed.  These will include the impact on manned missions, on various scientific experiments and on optical telescopes. The impact of the deposition of dust on our Apollo retroreflectors that continue in operation and yield new science after 50 years will be described. Our new Next Generation Lunar Retroreflectors (NGLRs) will support an improvement in the ranging accuracy by a factor of 100 and will be deployed on the lunar surface in 2021. The background and science of the Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) to both the Apollo retroreflectors and the NGLRs will be described. Finally, the science that we expect to be generated by the LLR program will be briefly described and the role and impact of dust deposition over the next 50 years considered.

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12:15-12:30 Discussion

12:30-13:30 Lunch

13:30-17:00

Session 4

7 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Professor John Zarnecki, The Open University, UK

13:30-13:50 The Moon and Mars Base Analog (MaMBA): a habitat as part of the scientific infrastructure on the Moon

Dr Christiane Heinicke, ZARM and University of Bremen, Germany

Abstract

Human space flight beyond low Earth orbit has been gaining new momentum over the past few years: the next goal for human space exploration is the Moon, and space agencies and private companies alike are working towards reaching that goal. And even though the next visit to the Moon is within the Artemis program and unlikely to last more than a few days, most agree that a presence on the Moon should be a permanent one. Consequently, infrastructure needs to be built on the Moon in order to support human life, particularly habitats that provide shelter to the lunar astronauts. Such habitats must fulfill a number of technological requirements (such as withstanding the low-pressure, high-radiation environment of the lunar surface), as well as a number of architectural ones, since only a crew in good physical and mental condition can perform optimally. The MaMBA concept (short for Moon and Mars Base Analog) which is being developed at the ZARM in Bremen, Germany, combines these two requirements. The ZARM recently built a mock-up of the laboratory module as the first part of the full habitat. In the long-term, the group plans to build the habitat as a functional prototype that can serve as a test platform for technologies, operations, and procedures. Here, Dr Heinicke will present the habitat concept and outline how a MaMBA-based facility could help set up and maintain scientific equipment on the Moon.

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13:50-14:10 DLR’s advanced robotic technology for future lunar scientific missions

Dr Armin Wedler, DLR (German Aerospace Center), Robotics and Mechatronics Center, Germany

Abstract

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is conducting research on fundamental robotic technologies required for future lunar missions. Based on the successful Hayabusa2 mission, during which the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) landed on the asteroid 'Ryugu' in 2018, DLR and CNES develop a rover to explore Phobos in the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission to be launched in 2024. Additional activities include studies on pre-missions to the lunar south pole as well as the operation of robots on future lunar stations in orbit and on the surface. Since those stations shall operate continuously with and without astronauts on board, they would greatly benefit from advanced robotic support, in particular in their unmanned phases. Therefore, several operation modalities are studied, ranging from teleoperation with visual and haptic feedback over shared autonomy to fully autonomous operations. 

The upcoming ARCHES space analogue campaign on the volcano Mt. Etna (Sicily, Italy), planned for 2020/06/15 to 2020/07/11, will continue DLR’s Moon-analogue tests conducted in 2017 for the ROBEX project. The goal is the preparation for future planetary robotic surface activities that form the basis for permanent bases on the lunar or Martian surface. The analogue mission consists of two parts: first, it will demonstrate the robotic installation and operation of a lunar radio telescope. Second, it will show geological scientific exploration with in-situ analyses and a return of samples. This will include the deployment of a robotic LIBS instrument, spectral camera systems, and various sampling tools.

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14:10-14:30 A new era of lunar exploration and science opportunities

Angeliki Kapoglou, University College London, UK and ESA, The Netherlands

Abstract

Lunar exploration is gearing up for a new era. Visionary, commercial space ventures like Blue Origin and Space X have announced plans to go to the Moon, NASA is offering contracts for commercial lunar lander providers and returning humans to the Moon by 2024, Israel and India are working on their second attempt to soft-land on the Moon, and China is step-by-step building capabilities for a base at the lunar South Pole by 2030. At the same time, in situ resource utilisation is emerging as a factor in the sustainability of exploration architectures and in the growth of an economic ecosystem in deep space. 

In order to better understand the influence of these new actors on implementing science priorities; this talk will provide an overview of the emerging lunar innovation ecosystem and incorporate insights from science, engineering, policy and business. Lunar actors will be assessed according to factors such as funding sources, government sponsorship, major customers, payloads, key technologies, secured launch contracts, and partnerships with other credible space industry actors.

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14:30-14:40 Discussion

14:40-15:00 20m cryogenic telescope at the lunar south pole

Professor Roger Angel FRS, University of Arizona, USA

Abstract

The value for astronomy of a human presence in space has been clearly demonstrated by the repairs and upgrades to the Hubble telescope made since 1980. A ten-times larger telescope at the moon’s south pole could similarly benefit, starting with assembly from modular mirror and structural elements. We can anticipate such a telescope will be enormously powerful for studies of the early universe, the nature of dark matter and energy, and exoplanets, especially if cooled to 50 – 100K to permit observations to the zodiacal background limit in the 0.5 – 5 µm spectral range. An insulating shield erected against solar and thermal ground radiation would allow such cooling. 

With the potential for instrument upgrades in mind, Professor Angel's group have developed an optical design for a 20 m telescope with 1° field of view, nearly diffraction limited down to 1µm wavelength. A 20 m hyperboloidal  (k= --1.1) primary feeds a corrector comprising three 5 m diameter mirrors, to yield an accessible field at f/2.9, 1.0 m in diameter. The telescope would use an alt-az mount, which at the pole has no field rotation. Using today’s silicon array technology, a half-trillion-pixel imager, with <2 µm pixels and 2 electron read noise, could be built to sample the full field with 0.01 arcsec resolution. Multi-object spectroscopy at infrared wavelengths, yielding tens of thousands of simultaneous spectra, could follow as comparably powerful longer wavelength arrays are developed. The corrected field could be instrumented to cover also the 5 – 500 µm wavelength range, largely inaccessible from Earth.

 

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15:00-15:05 Discussion

15:05-15:25 Coffee

15:25-15:55 Scarce resources imply policy issues for astronomy from the Moon

Dr Martin Elvis, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, USA

Abstract

Although the Moon has a land area 50% larger than North America, the valuable regions are far smaller for almost all the resources that have been considered. This has implications for doing astronomy from the Moon. The lunar cold traps may be good sites for large telescopes, but they are quite limited in extent. The coldest of the cold traps where infrared telescopes may operate with a low background, are few and are only a few kilometers across. Any other activity in these locations, notably mining for volatiles, is likely to cause problems for astronomy with lighting or dust dispersal. The unique value of the lunar farside for low frequency radio astronomy for cosmology or SETI searches depends on keeping radio interference from human activity extremely low. The farside has only a handful of relatively smooth locations where a full 200km – 300 km diameter radio interferometer array could be deployed. The rarity of these scientifically valuable locations is likely to put astronomers in conflict with others who plan to use the same sites for other purposes. Resolving these disputes will need a legal and international policy framework if they are to be handled peaceably. Some guidelines for such a framework are discussed based on interdisciplinary research/scholarship on the management of common-pool resources on Earth.

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15:55-16:10 Discussion

16:10-16:30 Technosignature searches from the lunar farside

Dr Andrew Siemion, University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute, USA

Abstract

The question of whether or not humans are alone in the universe as intelligent beings is among the most profound we can ask. A universe in which intelligent life arises commonly, and occasionally attains vast and long-lived technological capabilities, may be markedly different than one in which such life is an extraordinarily rare anomaly – perhaps even on the very largest scales. Dr Siemion will discuss the growing body of evidence that the opportunities for life to arise elsewhere in the universe are numerous and briefly describe several of the burgeoning experiments that are breathing new life into the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). They will also describe the unique challenges that radio frequency interference, low Earth orbit satellites and the Earth’s atmosphere pose to searches for manifestations of advanced extraterrestrial life and the opportunity for lunar farside-based observatories to address them. Following a review of the appearance of lunar observatories in the historical SETI literature, Dr Siemion will discuss several near-term initiatives that could lay the ground work for the realisation of a lunar technosignature search capability by the end of this decade.

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16:30-16:35 Discussion

16:35-17:00 Panel discussion

Professor Bernard Foing, ESA ESTEC, ILEWG and VU Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Astronomy from the Moon: the next decades - POSTPONED

18 - 19 March 2020

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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