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After the Big Bang, there was a short interval known as the Dark Ages, perhaps a few hundred million years long, before light from the first stars spread through the universe. Probing the evolution of the Universe during the Dark Ages and as the first stars form is possible using a low radio frequency telescope on the farside of the Moon. The team has developed a model for the patterns in the sky that we should expect due radio emission produced back in the Dark Ages. Our model shows how the strength of this radio signal is expected to change with frequency and assumptions about key moments in the history in the universe. The LUNAR team (in collaboration with other NLSI members) is examining the scientific case for future radio telescopes in lunar orbit or on the lunar surface. Technology development is underway for a lunar radio array with a large number of receiver antennas, so that antennas with high sensitivity and small mass are a key requirement.
Click HERE to view the ASTRO 2010 Decadal Survey
The high temperature solar corona produces the supersonic solar wind that creates a magnetic bubble around our solar system called the heliosphere. Over the course of the eleven-year cycle of solar activity, the heliosphere changes. These changes include violent solar flares and coronal mass ejections, which can effect communications, navigation, and human safety. The LUNAR team is working on ways to use low-frequency radio observations of the heliosphere from the surface of the Moon in order to determine how the Sun accelerates particles to high energy. This includes using existing radio observations from the two STEREO spacecraft. The research focuses on two tasks: the ability of radio receivers in space to study dust, and the use of imaging at low frequencies to detect unknown radio transients. Another goal of the radio heliophysics effort is to optimize the design of a lunar surface solar imaging radio array.
Click HERE to view the HELIOPHYSICS Decadal Survey (pending)
An enduring legacy of Apollo is the Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) package that has been used to test alternate theories to General Relativity and to probe the nature of the lunar core. The LLR team of the LUNAR group has been addressing the design, fabrication and emplacement of the next generation of retro-reflectors for the Moon. These improvements will make our laser measurements a hundred times more accurate. Initial work indicates that currently available reflecting cubes are unlikely to perform well when scaled up to the size required for new lunar retro-reflectors. Therefore, efforts are focusing on developing in-house capabilities for assembling more stable and sophisticated hollow cubes using a technique known as hydroxide-catalysis bonding.
Click HERE to view the PLANETARY 2010 Decadal Survey