An Ultimately Large Telescope Can Reveal the Very First Stars?

Ashley | 26 - 11 - 2020

A team of astronomers is reviving a concept that NASA sidelined a decade ago. According to this idea, a huge observatory would be installed to the moon. It dubbed an “Ultimately Large Telescope” facility that would easily outperform all other telescopes in its class and can spot objects that are predicted by theory but have never been seen.


This large liquid mirror telescope installed on the lunar surface can perform better than any other telescope such as searching for the signs of the first stars in the universe. Upcoming James Webb Space Telescope is considered the very powerful telescope. It is scheduled to be launched on October 31, 2021 but it cannot even see the earliest stars.

What Does NIAC Stand for?
  • A. NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts
  • B. NASA’s Innovative Active Concepts
  • C. NASA’s Innovative Assistive Concepts
  • D. None of the Above


Such is the competition of astronomers from the College of Texas at Austin, who have detailed the argument in a paper set to be printed in a future difficulty of Astrophysical journal(a pre-printed is presently available at the arXiv).


A team of astronomers from the college of Arizona proposed the idea of a lunar liquid mirror telescope in 2008. NASA flirted with the idea afterward but finally abandoned the idea due to the dearth of related science having to do with inhabitants III stars (The primary stars to appear in the Universe). A telescope in the moon might have the ability to peer into space unhindered atmospheric results and air pollution.


Throughout the historical past of astronomy, telescopes have become highly effective, allowing us to probe sources from successively earlier cosmic sources– ever nearer to the Big Bang, “Volker Bromm, a co-author of the paper, mentioned in a statement from the College of Texas McDonald Observatory. “The upcoming James Webb House telescope will attain the time when galaxies first formed.”


Problem is JWST- as highly effective as it will be- cannot be used to recognize smaller and dimmer objects that existed before the formation of galaxies, especially  Pop III stars. The “second of ‘very first light’ is over the capabilities of the powerful JWST, and alternatively needs a ‘final’ telescope”, Bromm mentioned.


Pop III stars finally popped into existence a few million years after the Big Bang, having spawned from a hydrogen and helium combination. The idea suggests that they were tens to hundreds of times larger than the sun, however, it is no match for the size and luminosity of our entire galaxy. As such Pop III stars have eluded deduction.


Having said that, the authors of our new study that was led by NASA hubble Fellow, Anna Schauer, contend that Pop III stars must be identifiable. We just have to detect their spawning grounds that are expected to take the form of “minihalos”. The earliest stars were born in the tiny proto-galaxies, but the luminosity of these objects are “too faint to be spotted even by the longest exposure instances,” as the authors write of their paper.


In our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, it has around 1 trillion stars and it is visible with the naked eye in very darkish places on the Earth,” defined by Schauer in an email. “These tiny first galaxies have 10 to 1,000 stars, and are farther away. It took the light for more than 13 million years to reach Earth. Both components play collectively, and we anticipate that minihalos are about 100 trillion times fainter than Andromeda.”


She added that by studying Pop III stars, we can study conditions in the early universe.


“In the early universe, before the first stars emerged, visible matter was composed only of hydrogen and helium. Stars are necessary to ‘breed’ larger elements including carbon and oxygen which are fundamentals of life,” said Schauer. “We run computer simulations to get a better understanding of Pop III stars, but we are still unsure about how massive and big these first stars were and if they formed in smaller and larger clusters. These questions can be only answered with observations.


This is where a lunar observatory can help. And indeed Schauer along with her colleagues ran the numbers, discovering that a sufficiently massive mirror-telescope on the lunar surface might do the trick. Co-author and senior research scientist with McDonald Observatory, Niv Drory, said that the ultimately large telescope can be “perfect” for the challenge.


Set at the Moon’s north or south pole, the stationary mirror might measure 328 feet(100 meters) throughout. The telescope would be autonomous and powered by a neighboring solar power station. The observatory would transfer data to a satellite that is placed in lunar orbit.


The mirror of the telescope can be made from liquid, versus glass. The placed mirror must spin continuously to maintain the liquid floor in a parabolic form. A metallic liquid would comprise the top layer of the mirror in order to supply the needed reflectivity. To prevent excess heat, the telescope can also be constructed inside a crater and positioned within a perpetual shadow.


As the authors write, nonetheless, “It’s not clear what impact lunar would have on the instrument and the observations.”


Peeing up into the cosmos, the ultimately massive telescope might fixate on a single patch of sky to soak up as much light as possible, because it looks for the minihalos in the near-infrared and at excessive redshifts(objects whose light may be redshifted– that means the wavelength have been stretched due to the expansion of the space). As the authors mention in their paper, the minihalos must produce a unique signature, so that they can be spotted ambiguously.


Positive, we would not be trying directly at Pop III stars, but we would certainly be looking at their formation sites– a type of smoking gun for their existence and surely the next best thing.


Looking forward, Schauer is excited for the launch of JWST as it will allow the scientists to study more about the early universe. This includes the first generation of stars that appeared after the formation of Pop III stars.


“For the future, I hope all the theorists and observers will work together in order to develop the technology for this moon telescope additionally,” she said. “I also hope that humans would possibly return to the moon in order to set up a website in which ULT could be constructed.”


This is not the one and only proposal to construct a huge telescope on the moon. NASA JPL Roboticist Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay has already had his vision for a lunar observatory, which would be constructed inside a huge crater. In contrast with the Ultimately Large Telescope( which can look for sources of infrared light), the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope would be an ultra long wavelength radio telescope that is effective for finding some of the weakest and most distant signals traveling across space. Bandyopadhyay’s project is now in the first phase of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts(NIAC) program.

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