Technology

Plan for radical liquid moon telescope to spot first stars

Plan for radical liquid moon telescope to spot first stars
Scientists have revisited an ambitious plan for a telescope on the moon capable of observing the first stars formed billions of years ago.
Such a telescope - made of liquid - would be able to show the birth of the universe's first galaxies, according to University of Texas astronomers.
The concept was first mooted by NASA a decade ago but the plan was shelved. They are set to publish their study in The Astrophysical Journal.
An artist impression of the liquid moon telescope. (Roger Angel et al/University of Arizona) (Supplied)
Scientists have speculated the very first stars formed 13 billion years ago, before galaxies came together.
"This moment of first light lies beyond the capabilities of current or near-future telescopes. It is therefore important to think about the 'ultimate' telescope, one that is capable of directly observing those elusive first stars at the edge of time," said co-author Volker Bromm, of the university's McDonald Telescope.
Siting a telescope on the moon would enable scientists to study the oldest stars in the universe. (Associated Press)
Instead of glass mirrors, the moon telescope would be designed around liquid ones.
The radical technology would involve a mirror composed of a spinning vat of liquid, topped by a metallic and reflective liquid, such as mercury.
The mirror would need to be 100m in diameter, and could be built into a lunar crater at one of the moon's poles. It could run on solar power.
The Giordano Bruno crater on the far side of the moon. A crater would be a prime place to build a lunar telescope. (NASA/University of Arizona) (Supplied)
Scientists said its liquid components would be easier to take to the moon than conventional materials.
Its size and location would make it incredibly powerful.
This isn't the only moon telescope concept scientists are looking at. NASA is funding research into a radio telescope idea that would transform a lunar crater into a dish.