A team of astronomers from the University of Texas at Austin have just proposed a liquid-mirror telescope installation on the moon to study some of the earliest stars in the universe. Instead of glass, the telescope’s mirror would be made of liquid, since it’s lighter, and more cost efficient, to transport to the moon. More specifically, it would be a spinning vat of with metallic liquid (ionic liquid salts) on top, thus making it reflective. It would most likely be installed in a crater at the north or south pole. Read more for a video on liquid-mirror telescopes and additional information.
Why install this on the moon? It is the ideal location because in order to observe stars so far away, a telescope would need to be outside the Earth’s atmosphere because it blocks light in the wavelengths required to observe these celestial bodies. This telescope, nicknamed “Ultimately Large Telescope,” would operate completely autonomously from the lunar surface using the sun as its power source, while relaying data to satellites in lunar orbit.
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It is a key question how star formation got going early in cosmic history. The emergence of the first stars marks a crucial transition in the history of the universe, when the primordial conditions set by the Big Bang gave way to an ever-increasing cosmic complexity, eventually bringing life to planets, life, and intelligent beings like us,” said Volker Bromm, a professor of astronomy at the University of Texas.