Launching radio telescopes on the back of the moon has been the dream of countless astronomers,media CNET reported. And the good news is that their dream came true last week: the antenna of the Sino-Dutch radio telescope has been on the back of the moon.
The Dutch-Chinese Low Frequency Probe (NCLE) is an important part of the mission to launch a lander and a lunar rover on the back of the moon, along with the Bridge relay satellite. NCLE is a radio telescope mounted on a “bridge” consisting of three long antennas designed to listen for low-frequency signals.
The purpose of the radio telescope was to look for weak radio signals that originated some time after the Big Bang, which cosmologists often refer to as the “dark ages.” Such signals are blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere, which is why NCLE is so well suited to the back of the moon.
The NCLE team had to wait more than a year to expand the antenna, which was longer than originally planned, while the Bridge was busy working for a communications relay station on the lunar lander. The spending of longer than expected seems to have affected NCLE. It’s hard to fully expand the antenna.
The team of scientists decided to first collect data using partially expanded antennas, which should be able to detect signals 800 million years after the Big Bang. Later, they may try again to fully expand them to get the target data from the dawn closer to the universe.
“We can finally do our job,” Heino Falcke, nCLE science leader, said in a press release. The first data will reveal the true performance of the instrument. “
NCLE will first target the sun and Jupiter, which are thought to emit strongly at low frequencies, but they will also listen for signals from deeper levels in the universe.