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Telescope Makes Observations from Moon's Far Side

Accepted submission by RandomFactor at 2019-12-03 02:19:57 from the iron in the sky over iron sky dept.
Science

Free of Earth generated interference and orbiting Starlink satellites, the far side of the moon now has a space based telescope in a halo orbit taking observations [gizmodo.com].

The instrument, called the Netherlands-China Low Frequency Explorer (NCLE), is located on Queqiao, a Chinese communications satellite that was launched in support of the Chang’e 4 mission, the first soft-landing and robotic mission to the lunar far side. NCLE was developed in the Netherlands by Radboud University, ASTRON, and ISISpace, along with support from Netherland’s Space Office.

The satellite's orbit keeps it in the L2 Lagrange point (the L2 Lagrange point lies in a line through two masses, on the far side of the smaller of the two).

Until now, Queqiao provided telecommunications service for the Chang’e 4 mission, acting as a relay station between the Yutu 2 lander and China’s project control center on Earth. The Dutch-Chinese telescope radio telescope has been dormant since it was launched in May 2018. The NCLE device was supposed to have been deployed a few months ago, but it was delayed owing to the tremendous success of the Chang’e 4 mission, which wasn’t expected to last beyond March 2019.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has now decided to move on to the next stage of the mission and convert Queqiao into an observatory for radio astronomy, according to a Radboud University press release. Three antennas have now been partially unfurled, allowing for radio scans of space—without pesky interference from Earth’s atmosphere.

NCLE is hoped to detect 'super-faint' radio signals in the 80kHz to 80MHz frequency range from the universe's 'Dark Age'- the period just after the Big Bang and before star formation began.

Additional Coverage [phys.org]


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