Thursday, September 20, 2012

LRX: Radio astronomy from ESA Lunar Lander

LRX, a single tripole radio antenna to engage in baseline radio astronomy from the ESA Lunar Lander after 2017. Figure 6 from Radio astronomy with the Lunar Lander: opening up the last unexplored frequency regime, Wolf, et al (2012).
Wolt, Aminaei, Zarka, Schrader, Boonstra and Falcke
arXiv: 1209.3033 Sept. 17, 2012

The active broadband (1 kHz - 100 MHz) tripole antenna (LRX) on the European Lunar Lander, located at the Lunar South Pole, will allow for sensitive measurements of the lunar exosphere and ionosphere, and their interaction with the Earths magnetosphere, solar wind and coronal mass-ejections (CMEs). In addition, the LRX will allow studies of radio communication on the moon, essential for future exploration.

In addition, the lunar South pole provides an excellent opportunity for radio astronomy. Placing a single radio antenna in an behind a mountain near the Moon's south or north pole would provide "perfect shielding" from man-made radio interference (RFI), and, with an absence of ionospheric distortion with high-temperature and antenna gain stability, allow the detection of 21 cm wavelength emission from the primordial hydrogen that formed after the Big Bang into the era when the first stars formed.

MACS1149-JD, a galaxy of the Cosmic
Dark Ages, formed only 500 million
after the Big Bang [HST].
Detection of the 21 cm line from the Moon would allow, for the first time, clues on the distribution and evolution of mass in the early universe, between the Epoch of Recombination and Epoch of Reionization. Next to providing a cosmological breakthrough, a single lunar radio antenna would allow for studies of the effect of solar flares CMEs on the solar wind at distances close to earth (space weather) and open up the study of low frequency radio events (flares and pulses) from Jupiter and Saturn and the other planets, known to emit bright radio emission below 30 MHz (The Shortwave and Medium Wave bands, highly-attenuated by the ionosphere on Earth).

Finally, a single radio antenna on the ESA Lunar Lander would pave the way for a large lunar radio interferometry; demonstrating the long-anticipated possibilities of radio astronomy from the lunar surface while opening up "the last unexplored radio regime." Baseline studies of data collected by a simple experiment affected by its important location will also allow a determination of the limitations of lunar radio science by measuring the local radio background.

Read the full study, HERE.

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