Building a telescope on the Moon.

BBC Sky at Night Magazine reports on NASA’s plan to look deeper into space than ever before by setting up a 9-lb (4-kg) radio telescope farther away than ever before – on the south pole of the Moon:

ROLSES, as the device is called, is one of the instruments on board Odysseus, the uncrewed commercial lunar lander built by Intuitive Machines.

Odysseus is due to be launched on 14 February 2024. It should land on the Moon with its radio telescope intact around 22 February, in the Malapert A crater near the lunar south pole.

Disturbing radio interference from Earth is shielded by 2,000 miles of rock, says [UC Boulder astronomer Jack] Burns, enabling the detection of extremely faint low-frequency radio waves from the early Universe.

As a demonstrator instrument, ROLSES (Radio-wave Observatory at the Lunar Surface of the Electron Sheath) will operate from the near side of the moon.

This telescope on the Moon’s main goal is to find out how cosmic radio waves are scattered by the porous lunar regolith or ‘moon dust’.

According to Burns, ROLSES is a pathfinder experiment for the future LuSEE-Night instrument (Lunar Surface Electromagnetic Experiment), which will be deployed at the Moon’s far side, hopefully in 2025 or 2026.

A partnership of NASA and the Department of Energy, LuSEE-Night could possibly hitch a ride on ESA’s Lunar Pathfinder mission.

This would put a telescope on the far side of the Moon, giving astronomers an unprecedented look at the Universe.