Unlocking New Discoveries with the Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night (LuSEE-Night)

A new project, the Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night (LuSEE-Night), is set to launch in late 2025 on a private robotic lunar lander.[0] Led by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA, the mission aims to access signals from the Dark Ages of the universe, a period of time 380,000 – 400 million years after the Big Bang.[1]

LuSEE-Night is a groundbreaking concept for a radio telescope that has the potential to access a previously unobserved era in our cosmic history.[2] It will feature four antennas, measuring three meters long, that will be deployed on the far side of the Moon.[3] This is the scientifically correct term for what we know as the dark side of the Moon.[4]

The far side of the Moon is ideal for the mission as it offers a deep and profound silence, free of the radio bombardment on Earth.[5] However, the environment is treacherous, with large temperature fluctuations ranging from 250ºF during the day to -280ºF at night.[6] This presents a challenge for data transmissions, and the mission could end prematurely if the instrument freezes.[2]

Paul O’Connor, a senior scientist at Brookhaven’s Instrumentation Division and LuSEE-Night Project Instrument Scientist, explains the difficulty of landing on the Moon: “The moon is easier to reach than Mars, but everything else is more challenging. There’s a reason only one robotic rover has landed on the Moon in the last 50 years, while six went to Mars, which is 100 times farther away. It’s a vacuum environment, which makes removing heat difficult, and there’s a bunch of radiation.”[7]

The telescope will be able to pick up faint radio waves from the Dark Ages by using onboard antennas, radio receivers, and a spectrometer.[8] Stuart D. Bale, NASA’s Principal Investigator for LuSEE-Night and a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, explains the difficulty of this measurement: “This measurement is very challenging; radio emission from the galaxy is very bright, and our Dark Ages signal is hiding behind it.”[2]

Anze Slosar, the LuSEE-Night science collaboration spokesperson, adds: “Every time we have opened a new frequency window in cosmology, we have unlocked new discoveries about the history of the Universe and our place within it.[2]

0. “Lunar telescope will search for ancient radio waves” EurekAlert, 9 Mar. 2023, https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/982134

1. “Scientists want to deploy telescope on the far side of Moon to explore universe’s ‘Dark Ages’” The Indian Express, 14 Mar. 2023, https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/science/telescope-far-side-of-the-moon-universe-dark-ages-8497173/

2. “NASA, Energy Collaborate on Lunar Experiment Exploring Dark Ages of the Universe” Nextgov, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.nextgov.com/cxo-briefing/2023/03/nasa-energy-collaborate-lunar-experiment-exploring-dark-ages-universe/383714/

3. “NASA wants a telescope on the far side of the Moon” The Register, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.theregister.com/2023/03/14/nasa_moon_telescope/

4. “Telescope on dark side of moon will study radio waves” Cosmos, 9 Mar. 2023, https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/telescope-dark-moon-radio/

5. “Observatory on the far side of the moon will seek ‘Dark Ages' signal” Interesting Engineering, 14 Mar. 2023, https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/observatory-far-side-moon-dark-ages

6. “Department of Energy and NASA Join Forces on Innovative Lunar Experiment” Newswise, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.newswise.com/articles/department-of-energy-and-nasa-join-forces-on-innovative-lunar-experiment

7. “Telescope to search for ancient radio waves on dark side of Moon” Lokmat, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.lokmattimes.com/international/telescope-to-search-for-ancient-radio-waves-on-dark-side-of-moon/

8. “Unravelling the ‘Dark Ages' of our universe from far side of the moon” WION, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.wionews.com/science/understanding-the-dark-ages-of-universe-from-far-side-of-the-moon-571754

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