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Overview

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

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 can be found below. A related journal issue has been published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A

Poster session

There will be a poster session on Monday 13 February. If you would like to apply to present a poster please submit your proposed title, abstract (not more than 200 words and in third person), author list, name of the proposed presenter and institution to the Scientific Programmes team no later than Wednesday 1 February 2023. Please include the text 'Poster abstract submission' in the email subject line. Please note that places are limited and posters are selected at the scientific organisers' discretion.

Attending this event

  • Free to attend
  • Both in-person and online attendance is available
  • Limited places, advance registration essential

Enquiries: contact the Scientific Programmes team

Organisers

Schedule


Chair

09:00-09:05
Introduction
09:05-09:35
Speaker tbc

Abstract

 

09:35-10:05
Talk title tbc

Speakers

10:05-10:35
A lunar orbit array for Discovering the Sky at the Longest wavelength and exploring the primordial universe

Abstract

After the Big Bang, the Universe entered the so-called dark ages, during which structures grow until the first generation of stars, galaxies and black holes formed. The 21cm line of the neutral hydrogen provides a unique probe to the dark ages and cosmic dawn. However, observing the dark age is extremely difficult, not only because there is huge foreground radiation, but because the ionosphere of Earth absorbs and distorts the low frequency radio signal. In fact, the radio band below 30 MHz is the last largely unexplored part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Professor Chen shall present the Discovering Sky at the Longest wavelength (DSL) project, also known as Hongmeng Project, which aims to unveil the sky at low frequency and probe the cosmic dawn and dark ages by using an array of microsatellites on lunar orbit. After introducing the conceptual design, he shall also discuss the progress in solving the key technological problems, such as image synthesis from the lunar orbit interferometry, and precise global spectrum measurement, and the various science cases enabled by such observations.

Speakers

10:35-11:00
Break
11:00-11:30
The geology and environment of the Moon

Abstract

This presentation will provide an overview of the Moon itself: what is the Moon made of, how did it geologically evolve through time, what is the nature of its surface environment at the present day? These questions help us to understand the geological evolution of the Moon and also Earth and other terrestrial bodies in the Solar System. They also provide fundamental information about the nature of the Moon’s surface, which is relevant to future exploration and development by missions.

Speakers

11:30-12:00
The lunar surface as a recorder of astrophysical processes

Abstract

The lunar surface has been exposed to the space environment for billions of years and during this time has 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. The lunar surface may also have accreted material from the local interstellar medium, including supernova ejecta and material from interstellar clouds encountered by the Solar System in the past. Owing to the Moon’s relatively low level of geological activity, absence of an atmosphere, and, for much of its history, lack of a magnetic field, the lunar surface is ideally suited to collect these astronomical records. Moreover, the Moon exhibits geological processes able to bury, and thus both preserve and ‘time-stamp’, these records, although gaining access to them is likely to require a significant scientific infrastructure on the lunar surface.

Speakers

12:00-12:15
Discussion

Chair

13:15-13:45
The limits of cosmology: role of the Moon

Abstract

The lunar surface allows a unique way forward in cosmology, to go beyond current limits. The far side provides a unique radio-quiet environment for probing the dark ages via 21 cm interferometry to seek elusive clues on the nature of the infinitesimal fluctuations that seeded galaxy formation. Far-infrared telescopes in cold and dark lunar polar craters will probe back to the first months of the Big Bang and study associated spectral distortions in the CMB. Optical and IR megatelescopes will image the first star clusters in the universe and seek biosignatures in the atmospheres of unprecedented numbers of nearby habitable zone exoplanets. The goals are compelling and a stable lunar platform will enable construction of telescopes that can access trillions of modes in the sky, providing the key to exploration of our cosmic origins.

Speakers

13:45-14:15
Cosmic mysteries and the hydrogen 21cm line

Abstract

The forbidden radio signal of atomic hydrogen produced at the intrinsic wavelength of 21 cm could help us solve some of the remaining cosmic mysteries. For example, it could advance our understanding of the formation process of the very first stars, black holes and galaxies, and clarify the ultimate phase transition that the Universe went through - the process of reionization. The field of 21-cm cosmology is undergoing a revolution with both observations and modelling making rapid progress. Radio experiments on the moon will advance our understanding of the first few hundred million years of cosmic history by mapping the 21-cm signal from the epoch called the cosmic dark ages, prior to the formation of any sources of light. Free from contamination by astrophysical sources, this signal will provide unique information about the structure of our Universe and the nature of dark matter particles. In this talk, Dr Fialkov will discuss the recent advances in the field of 21-cm cosmology and the prospects for 21-cm cosmology from the moon.

Speakers

14:15-14:45
Low radio frequency science from the Moon with NASA lunar-landed telescopes

Abstract

Exploration of the low radio frequency Universe from the Moon will soon begin with landed payload missions facilitated by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Professor Burns will discuss CLPS landers that will deliver three radio science experiments, ROLSES (Radio-wave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the Electron Sheath) to the south pole in 2023, and two LuSEE (Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment) payloads to the far side in 2024/25. ROLSES and LuSEE, operating at 0.1-50 MHz, will investigate the plasma environment and measure the fidelity of radio spectra on the surface. LuSEE-Nite will operate at night for about two years and will perform the first 21-cm cosmological observations from the lunar surface, opening one of the last windows to the early Universe - the Dark Ages and Cosmic Dawn. Using the redshifted 21-cm hyperfine line of neutral hydrogen which fills the early Universe, these observations are enabled by the radio-quiet, nearly ionosphere-free, and environmentally stable lunar far side. Finally, Professor Burns will discuss FARSIDE (Farside Array for Radio Science Investigations of the Dark ages and Exoplanets), a NASA-funded mission concept, which would be the first radio interferometer on the Moon.

Speakers

14:45-15:15
Break
15:15-15:45
The Astrophysics Lunar Observatory: 21-Cosmology of the Dark Ages

Abstract

The Astrophysical Lunar Observatory (ALO) mission is notionally the third mission concept being studied in the context of the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3) project, currently in phase A/B1, aiming at program subscription at the ESA Ministerial Council in 2022. Professor Koopmans will present a status update of the project and its scientific goals among which are the detection of the global 21-cm signal from the Dark Ages and Cosmic Dawn.

Speakers

15:45-16:15
After the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE)

Speakers

16:15-17:00
Discussion

Chair

09:00-09:30
Lunar gravitational-wave detection

Abstract

Future gravitational-wave (GW) detectors like LISA and the proposed Einstein Telescope and Cosmic Explorer will herald a new era of GW science. Together with pulsar timing arrays and inflationary probes, a frequency band spanning over 20 decades will be under observation. However, these detectors leave important frequency gaps for GW detections, most notably the decihertz band, which is predicted to be rich with exciting possibilities for GW cosmology, multi-messenger astrophysics, and fundamental physics. In this talk, Professor Harms presents their vision for the utilization of the Moon as a new platform for GW detection including the decihertz band. The idea goes back to Joseph Weber who led the development of the Lunar Surface Gravimeter deployed on the Moon in 1972 by the crew of Apollo 17. The science goal was to observe the vibrations of the Moon caused by GWs. Three new detector concepts were proposed in 2020 with the potential to revolutionize GW science from the Moon over the next several decades. Very deep studies of the Moon will be required to realize these detectors thereby creating a tight link of lunar GW detection to lunar geology and geophysics.

Speakers

09:30-10:00
Lunar observatories in visible light: projects and science objectives

Abstract

Dr Schneider reviews two high angular resolution and high spectrophotometric sensitivity projects in visible light:

  1. A Lunar Hypertelescope based on 'densified pupill' for the mutli-pixel imaging of exoplanets and arcs of microlensed quasars
  2. A concept for OWL-Moon, a 50-100m aperture telescope, to address three major areas in astronomy, namely the detection of biosignatures on habitable exoplanets, the geophysics of exoplanets, and cosmology.

Such a large lunar telescope, when coupled with large Earth-based telescopes, would allow Intensity Interferometric measurements, leading to pico-arcsecond angular resolution.

Speakers

10:00-10:30
Infrared astronomy beyond JWST: let's go to the Moon!

Abstract

In the previous meeting about 'Astronomy on the Moon', Dr Maillard has been asking whether our natural satellite could offer the future of infrared astronomy. Since, the launch of JWST, the current largest infrared space telescope, has taken place, providing already spectacular images on a variety of sources and unique spectral information on faint sources as exoplanets. Therefore, this telescope with its instrumentation marks a point of reference to define the future of IR astronomy. With any doubt, the Moon can offer the cold sites to go well beyond in sensitivity, making possible a bigger telescope and giving the chance of a broader spectral domain, while having all the advantages of space conditions. However, due to the difficulty of transporting and assembling on site such a project, it should be a unique international instrument. Therefore, as JWST, it should be designed to cover by its instrumentation a large choice of scientific programs and not be defined for a single one, from detection of the most distant galaxies to detailed analysis of the atmosphere of terrestrial exoplanets, while keeping a reasonable diameter to limit the total cost of the project. 

Speakers

10:30-11:00
Break
11:00-11:30
Speaker tbc
11:30-12:00
The history, properties, and problems with dust on the Moon

Abstract

The 'dust' on the surface of the Moon is a wondrous, unique phenomenon, having properties that have never been seen on Earth. Theoretical predictions of the possible properties of the dust layer had a major impact 50 years ago that necessitated greatly modifying NASA plans and the hardware for Apollo 11. The dust also had a major impact on the problems and behaviours of the Apollo astronauts. The formation mechanism, that is, the 'splash' from micrometeorite impacting the surface, the structure of the lunar dust and the 'gardening' effect are also unknown on Earth. This will be described in some detail. Beyond that, the analysis of data from optical instruments on the Moon and the observations by the astronauts appear to indicate that clouds of dust, like a low-lying fog, sweep across the surface of the Moon from East to West, moving with the sunrise. The impact of dust on past, current, and future optical systems will be discussed. In particular, the proposed programs addressing large optical and/or infrared telescopes must address the impact of lunar dust on both the operation and the lifetime of such facilities.  

Speakers

12:00-12:15
Discussion

Chair

13:15-13:45
Speaker tbc
13:45-14:10
Technosignature searches from the lunar farside

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). He 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, he will discuss several near-term initiatives that could lay the ground work for the realization of a lunar technosignature search capability by the end of this decade.

Speakers

14:10-14:35
Speaker tbc
14:35-14:35
Talk title tbc

Speakers

15:00-15:30
Break
15:30-15:45
Highly constrained site selection and protection for major observatories on the Moon

Abstract

Proposals for major new lunar observatories, many of them presented at this meeting, are often demanding in their site selection criteria. As a result there are only a few special locations on the Moon at which most can function optimally. Several examples are given including for a farside low frequency radio array, a far-IR telescope, and a gravitational wave interferometer. Much is at stake as all of these facilities will make our present capabilities seem puny. The astronomically valuable properties of the sites are fragile and easily disturbed by other activities on the Moon. Yet without those other activities the infrastructure needed to build large astronomy facilities will not exist. Anticipating the need to protect these sites will require astronomers to perform careful site surveys, define levels of acceptable interference, propose technical mitigation steps where feasible, and work with other scientists who need lunar sites for their research. Astronomers will then be well-positioned to work with policy experts to implement measures that preserve these sites of extraordinary scientific interest.

Speakers

15:45-16:00
The policy and governance context of lunar science

Abstract

Over the next decade, numerous international space exploration missions are expected to land at just a handful of sites on the lunar surface, several of which present unique potential for scientific research. The clustering of mission activity at these sites portends crowding and interference problems, including specific challenges for scientific missions.  The most promising means to addressing these problems is the development of international governance institutions or mechanisms to manage activities at these sites. This paper surveys the historical foundations of lunar governance, examines contemporary efforts at developing a regime for lunar activities, and explores future scenarios for developing governance and policy in this area. 

Speakers

16:00-17:00
Panel discussion

Speakers