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Astronomers push for observatory on the moon

The Crater Daedalus as seen from the Apollo 11 spacecraft in lunar orbit
The Crater Daedalus as seen from the Apollo 11 spacecraft in lunar orbit  

By Richard Stenger
CNN Sci-Tech

(CNN) -- Hoping to tune into wavelengths of the universe that have never been heard before, a number of scientists have recommended the construction of a radio telescope on the far side of the moon.

Such an observatory, shielded by the moon, could tune out constant interference of radio emissions from Earth. Moreover, it could tune into the extremely low radio frequencies that normally bounce off the Earth's atmosphere.

Astronomers are studying the feasibility of the proposal, which they contend could be built remotely through the use of robotic equipment.

"It will give us a completely new view of the universe," gushed Yuki Takahashi, an astronomer at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, in a Web site dedicated to enlisting support for a lunar observatory.

"It's like we've always worn red sunglasses. When we take them off, we'll discover red flowers, red apples, red ladybugs, red flames."

As if with new senses, a lunar observatory could observe previously unidentified phenomena, including many new galaxies with extremely high red shifts, according to Takahashi.

Claudio Maccone of the Center for Astrodynamics in Turin, Italy, thinks it could be accomplished within 15 years, should NASA, the European Space Agency or another major government institution provide the billions of dollars necessary.

"I do believe this will be built," Maccone told the Britain-based NewScientist. He expects to issue a report on the proposed mission to the International Academy of Astronautics in October.

But time is critical. With new satellites orbiting at increasing distances from the Earth, they threaten to encroach on the "radio oasis" on the other side of the moon, according to Maccone.

Two candidate spots on the moon include Daedalus and Saha, each a formidable crater dozens of miles in diameter.

In particular, scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project like the prospects of a lunar listening post. A major nuisance they face as they eavesdrop on the universe is the constant interference of radio emissions from Earth.




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