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Appeal for the realization of an astronomic observatory on the moon

  1. Jan 9, 2013 #1
    This appeal is addressed to all the ones that have the grasp of secrets of the universe at heart and want to work on to lay the foundations of human space exploration. The mankind has a barrier to overcome and a no limits horizon to discover.

    The billions of stars, the galaxies, the collisions between the giants in the sky, the unknown factors of astrophysical phenomenon, the possibility of finding the life on other planets, the research of extraterrestrial minds, the questions of the universe and the place of mankind in it, they are sides of a great plan that needs to be disclosed.

    Humanity must expand itself in the universe. The Earth is reduced to overpopulation, to pollution, to destruction of environmental resources, to all sorts of conflict. Only the space and innumerable planets being in it, can give to humanity unlimited and available energy and raw materials without stealing, killing or polluting, and larger lands, able to provide with living space a large number of human beings. The space colonization is the natural continuation of our process of growth, the only alternative route to the brutal possibility that men during futures millenniums can submit them to live forever in a still more crowded and slowly degrading environment. It isn't fantasy, nor a play, nor science fiction. It is the will of renascence, of evolution, and of progress that pool us.

    Short-term, the most important aim to attain is the construction of a Lunar base, not important in itself, but saw as point of support for an observatory. The moon will become the humanity's eye in the universe, a giant set of great instruments looking into the most out of the way places and searching other forms of life on planets that are the same as the Earth. The Hubble telescope already showed the capability of instruments placed in the space, but the moon has better requisites for the astronomical observation, allowing the use of telescopes for infrared, ultraviolet, X rays, gamma rays and the radio-wave of all wave-length. Such telescopes must be at present put into orbit on artificial satellites with very high costs.

    Also optical telescopes are going to have great advantages compared to those placed on the Earth, because they could attain the theoretical limit of their own precision power. These ones are going to be bound to the lunar rotation and they’ll cannot pick up light from the same astronomical object no longer than half a lunar rotation. Since, however, the lunar day is nearly a month long, the number of photons which can be picked up by optical telescopes mirrors during a single observation, it’s going to be enormously superior compared with that is obtainable on the Earth.

    The total lack of atmosphere, the seismic stability, the scarcity of interference’s from the luminous and radio-waves (most of all on the hidden face of our satellite), the richness of raw materials, the minor gravitational attraction, they make of the Moon the best place for the astronomical observation.

    The installation on the Moon of a big optical interferometer is an ambitious project. The Lunar Optical-Ultraviolet-Infrared Synthesis Array (LOUISA) would have a precision 100.000 times over the bigger telescopes on Earth. Composed by 42 1.5 meters telescopes, electronically linked, arranged on a 10 km diameter, this observatory could allow to identify planets that are the same as those of solar system around thousands stars, details of planets and asteroids and a lot of other things.

    A radio telescope on the Moon, linked with another one on the Earth, could have the precision power of a sole 400.000-km diameter aerial. Besides the moon craters are very good hollows to lay fixed radio telescopes like those placed in Arecibo.

    On the hidden side of the Moon we can study the low frequency radio waves building the Very Low Frequency Array (VLFA) composed by 200 dipole antennas, distributed on a 20 km diameter, linked with a central installation for data-harvesting. It could be possible to build gamma impulse, X emissions, neutrinos, gravitational waves detector, telescopes for millimetric waves etc.

    This is a technologically "possible" objective because it is supposed by sure datum points, like the International Space Station, the chemical propulsion, the presence of water in lunar poles, the possibility to use the local resources to build tools and equipment.

    Italy has great tradition as regard to exploration. Cristoforo Colombo and the others taught us that we need an ideal to pursue with determination during the life. A man without ideals is nothing, because he walks along his earthly life writing not on the stone, but on the sand, which deletes all. We also want that the Italian Astronautics see the light, so that other people cannot say us how we should pay and how longer we are going to wait for our pat of future in the heavens.

    Our action must be born from down. Each single person, each association, each group, they must give their own contribution for promoting, projecting, financing, developing. If we would be able to create an opinion movement for a project that involves the official organs, universities, industries, we are going to have concrete results in few time.

    This appeal is sent at the same time to hundreds of SETI researchers, astronomy lovers, ufologic associations, astronautic societies, magazines and Italian publication, single researchers.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2013 #2


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    The cost is FAR FAR larger to go to the moon and establish something like this. WAAAAAAY bigger.

    Perhaps you haven't heard of a couple of things. First, adaptive optics allow us to get far higher resolution than we have in the past. While they are expensive and don't completely correct for the atmosphere, the cost is orders of magnitude less than a observatory on the moon would cost. Plus the telescopes here are much easier to service and upgrade.

    Second, ALL major telescopes use electronic sensors to record the light. This allows us far better efficiency than photographic film, but the important point I want to make is that it allows us to do many shorter exposures and then digitally add them together to achieve the same signal to noise ratio that a single longer exposure would give. This has the benefit of allowing us to ignore certain frames that are taken that have large errors thanks to cosmic rays, the telescope moving slightly, and a host of other issues. Plus the sensors cannot support an exposure more than a certain length anyways thanks to the buildup of dark current in the sensor. You would absolutely never do an exposure for more than about an hour or so anyways. Even the Hubble Space Telescope typically takes exposures in the 1-30 minute range. And a telescope on the Moon would be subject to FAR more interference from cosmic rays, gamma rays, etc thanks to not being inside the Earths atmosphere OR magnetic field.

    Richness of raw materials? Do you have any idea how difficult it would be to set up a fully functioning installation to make use of these resources? We're talking hundreds of people that need to be fed, sheltered, etc at minimum.

    As far as I can tell this isn't even feasible on Earth yet. Just linking a couple of telescopes together for optical interferometry is a huge challenge.
    It's not about whether it's possible, it's about whether we can afford to do it at all. The cost of something of this magnitude is astronomical. And to keep it running would cost a significant amount every year as well, since we would have to support resupply missions, crew rotations, etc. These things require very large rockets that are very very expensive to construct and operate. Not to mention the money and time you would have to pump into the program just to design and test everything anyways.

    Columbus didn't have to borrow the equivalent of a moderately sized countries GDP to go on his trip or waste 99% of his supplies just to get out to sea.

    No. No you won't. This is something that would require the direct intervention of the federal government of the US to jump start and finance. OR we wait until space travel is economical and then we won't have to go begging from door to door.

    I'm sorry you wasted your time then.
  4. Jan 9, 2013 #3
    Seems to me a case of "planetary chauvinism". Both Isaac Asimov and Gerard K. O'Neill have credited the other with this term, which describes a common tendency to only imagine living on planet-sized celestial objects. GKON is best-known for advocating free-flying space colonies.

    To date, it's been unnecessary to land outer-space telescopes on other planets and planet-sized objects like the Moon. Why should it be necessary to do so? What does such a place offer that Earth orbit or interplanetary space does not offer?
  5. Jan 9, 2013 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Richness of raw materials?

    Consider Antarctica, which is much, much richer. It has things like "air" and "water" and transportation costs are at least three orders of magnitude cheaper. Compare the AST3-1 telescope in Antarctica with the Keck.
  6. Jan 9, 2013 #5
    Raw materials, yes, if one counts the raw materials for cinderblocks and the like.

    Most of the material of Moon rocks, and also Earth rocks, is various metal silicates. I don't know of any simple way of getting the metals out of metal silicates. Preferably some way that does not require shipping large quantities of materials from the Earth or some way that is not very mechanically complicated.

    In fact, most metal ores are metal oxides or sulfides or sulfates or carbonates or chlorides or the like. They are much easier to refine.

    Here is something I once wrote about asteroid mining, and it also applies to Moon mining.

    It seems like a nonstarter. I seriously suspect that there won't be much by way of ore deposits in the asteroid belt, because of the lack of geological activity in most asteroids. To see why, let's review how how ore bodies form. Geologists have now gotten a good understanding of that, and we can use that understanding to see what one can expect of elsewhere.

    Ore genesis
    Processes of Ore Formation
    • Fractional crystallization of magma bodies.
    • Sorting of immiscible components of magma bodies.
    • Hydrothermal processes: water dissolving some minerals in hotter rocks and those minerals precipitating out in cooler rocks.
    • Diffusion of minerals into cracks and the like ("lateral secretion").
    • Precipitation from bodies of water, like salt being left behind when water evaporates.
    • Mechanical sorting.
    • Being left behind by other materials getting leached away by water flowing through.
    • Release by volcanoes.
    Most of these processes require liquid water, and only the Earth and Mars have such processes near their surfaces. There is even some evidence of such processes on Mars, in the form of evidence of carbonates and sulfates.

    So we are stuck with igneous processes, rock melting. By the square-cube law, only a relatively large object can have such processes, so have any asteroids had them? The evidence, surprisingly, is yes. Certain meteorites, the "HED meteorites", have spectra similar to Vesta's surface, meaning that they likely came from Vesta.

    So the smaller asteroids are unlikely to contain useful ores, except perhaps if they are fragments of some larger one that had had magma differentiation.

    One could get the rarer elements by chewing through large quantities of asteroid, but it would be cheaper to do that with Earth rocks or seawater. But there *might* be some elements where mining asteroids might be worthwhile: the rarer "siderophiles". These are elements with a chemical affinity for iron, like gold and the platinum-group elements. The Earth's crust is depleted in them relative to stony and especially to iron asteroids, so one could mine gold by chewing through some iron asteroids.
    Goldschmidt classification
    Mineralogy Notes 3
    Abundances of the elements 3.1.3
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