SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

NASA wants to put a telescope on the moon, here’s why

Nov 10, 2023, 8:00 PM

Image of the first supermoon of 2023, which occurred in July. In more moon news, , NASA and Jet Pro...

FILE: NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory are considering the moon for the next big space telescope. (Isaiah J. Downing/ USA Today Sports /Reuters via CNN)

(Isaiah J. Downing/ USA Today Sports /Reuters via CNN)

SALT LAKE CITY — First it was Hubble, and next came the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Now, NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory are considering the moon for the next big space telescope.

NASA doesn’t want to build the telescope on Earth or shoot it out on a satellite. Instead, it wants to build it on the far side of the moon.

BYU Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Denise Stephens said a lunar telescope is better than telescopes on the ground for at least one reason.

“[The] moon has no atmosphere,” she said. “So, it doesn’t have those gasses to absorb those wavelengths of light.”

But what makes the moon better than a satellite? Stephens said putting the telescope inside a lunar crater means more protection from the sun’s heat and space debris and makes it easier to make repairs.

Additionally, lunar gravity means it can be four times bigger than the JWST. That means better pictures.

It’s one thing to have the JWST out there snagging pictures of baby galaxies but with exposure to the sun, the satellite’s lens gets too hot and loses picture quality. A larger lens means clearer pictures of some of the earliest stars, galaxies, and nebulae in the universe.

Putting the telescope on the moon helps keep the entire lens cool, and makes it easier to conduct repairs.

Further reading: Euclid telescope’s first images reveal new cosmic details

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NASA wants to put a telescope on the moon, here’s why