NASA has big plans for its return to the moon under the space agency's Artemis Program, and now a new proposal has surfaced under NASA's Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) Program that could, if approved, put a massive telescope on the dark side of the moon.
The new proposal written by Kenneth Carpenter and his colleagues at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) details a Long-Baseline Optical Imaging Interferometer (LBI) designed for the dark side of the moon, and would be called the Artemis-enabled Stellar Imager (AeSI). The telescope would consist of an array of smaller telescopes designed to image objects and regions of space in ultraviolet and visible wavelengths.
The proposal states there is massive potential for having an observatory on the lunar surface due to the "radio quiet" nature of the environment and prolonged periods of darkness. For those that don't know, the moon is tidally locked to Earth, meaning one of the sides of the moon is always facing toward Earth, hence the name description "dark side of the moon". Due to this gravitational phenomenon, two weeks on the lunar surface consists of one Earth day, which means the dark side of the moon will be in total darkness for two weeks at a time.
"One obvious candidate is extremely high-resolution interferometric imaging at visible and ultraviolet wavelengths. This can resolve the surfaces of stars, probe the inner accretion disks surrounding nascent stars and black holes, and begin the technical journey towards resolving surface features and weather patterns on the nearest exoplanets," writes NASA
This environment is perfect for high-resolution interferometric imaging, a method of observing the universe through gathering large swaths of light and identifying any patterns of interference.
"A fully developed facility will be large and expensive, but it need not start that way. The technologies can be developed and tested with 2 or 3 small telescopes on short baselines. Once the technology is developed, baselines can be lengthened, larger telescopes can be inserted, and the number of telescopes can be increased. Each of these upgrades can be accomplished with minimal disruption to the rest of the system," added NASA