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Rovers Will Unroll a Telescope on the Moon’s Far Side

Astronomers need a quiet place to observe the cosmic dawn

2 min read
Illustration of a rover laying down flexible antenna on the lunar surface.
Illustration: Peter Sanitra

Illustration: Peter Sanitra

The far side of the moon offers a unique opportunity to radio astronomers: an observatory built there could peer into the early universe, shielded from electromagnetic interference from Earth.

For decades, astronomers have gazed up at the moon and dreamed about what they would do with its most unusual real estate. Because the moon is gravitationally locked to our planet, the same side of the moon always faces us. That means the lunar far side is the one place in the solar system where you can never see Earth—or, from a radio astronomer’s point of view, the one place where you can’t hear Earth. It may therefore be the ideal location for a radio telescope, as the receiver would be shielded by the bulk of the moon from both human-made electromagnetic noise and emissions from natural occurrences like Earth’s auroras.

Early plans for far-side radio observatories included telescopes that would use a wide range of frequencies and study many different phenomena. But as the years rolled by, ground- and satellite-based telescopes improved, and the scientific rationale for such lunar observatories weakened. With one exception: A far-side telescope would still be best for observing phenomena that can be detected only at low frequencies, which in the radio astronomy game means below 100 megahertz. Existing telescopes run into trouble below that threshold, when Earth’s ionosphere, radio interference, and ground effects begin to play havoc with observations; by 30 MHz, ground-based observations are precluded.

In recent years, scientific interest in those low frequencies has exploded. Understanding the very early universe could be the “killer app” for a far-side radio observatory, says Jack Burns, an astrophysics professor at the University of Colorado and the director of the NASA-funded Network for Exploration and Space Science. After the initial glow of the big bang faded, no new light came into the universe until the first stars formed. Studying this “cosmic dawn [PDF],” when the first stars, galaxies, and black holes formed, means looking at frequencies between 10 and 50 MHz, Burns says; this is where signature emissions from hydrogen are to be found, redshifted to low frequencies by the expansion of the universe.

With preliminary funding from NASA, Burns is developing a satellite mission that will orbit the moon and observe the early universe while it travels across the far side. But to take the next step scientifically requires a far larger array with thousands of antennas. That’s not practical in orbit, says Burns, but it is feasible on the far side. “The lunar surface is stable,” he says. “You just put these things down. They stay where they need to be.”

This article appears in the July 2019 print issue as “The View From the Far Side.”

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Digital Resurrection Brings Star Trek Back to the Future

Visual effects involving deceased actors are increasingly commonplace

3 min read
5 scenes from Star Trek episodes

A montage of scenes from The Roddenberry Archive's efforts to preserve Star Trek.

OTOY/The Roddenberry Archive

The bridge of the original U.S.S. Enterprise could soon be a place you can visit—complete with some of the original cast.

Visual effects that include virtual “performances” by deceased actors, or that drastically de-age those still alive, are becoming commonplace. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story famously used such effects to replicate the late Peter Cushing’s performance as Grand Moff Tarkin. Now, the Roddenberry Archive is using similar effects to give audiences a like-new performance of Leonard Nimoy as Spock—if only inside the virtual world of a video game.

“The kid inside me had always dreamed of being Spock,” says actor Lawrence Selleck, who performs as Spock in the Roddenberry Archive’s restoration. “And now, suddenly, here I am with the Roddenberry Foundation putting on the best set of ears you can possibly imagine.”

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Protect Yourself and IEEE

October is cybersecurity month. Here are some tips on how to stay safe

1 min read

October is a cybersecurity month, but hackers and scammers are working hard every day. Cyber threats come through websites, emails, texts, and phone calls. The risks are financial loss, reputation damage and loss of intellectual property. We need to make every day a security day by being alert and by following security best practices, including:

  • Change your passwords often
  • Don’t reuse the same passwords
  • Be suspicious of any monetary requests
  • Look out for fraudsters impersonating IEEE leaders
  • Don’t fall for threats nor requests for immediate action
  • Always use a secondary method and contact information to verify a sender’s identity

Contact IEEE IT security team at security@ieee.org to report any suspicious activities or if you have questions or need help.

How a Dual Curing Adhesive Works

UV22DC80-1 is an abrasion-resistant adhesive system that meets NASA low outgassing specs

1 min read

Master Bond's UV22DC80-1 is a one component, nanosilica filled, dual cure system with UV and heat curing mechanisms.

Master Bond

This sponsored article is brought to you by Master Bond.

Master Bond UV22DC80-1 is a nanosilica filled, dual cure epoxy based system. Nanosilica filled epoxy formulations are designed to further improve performance and processing properties.

The specific filler will play a crucial role in determining key parameters such as viscosity, flow, aging characteristics, strength, shrinkage, hardness, and exotherm. As a dual curing system, UV22DC80-1 cures readily upon exposure to UV light, and will cross link in shadowed out areas when heat is added.

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