LUNAR webinar, Friday 20th January 2012

Jack Burns, University of Colorado, Boulder & NASA Lunar Science Institute

The Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research


An overview will be given of the research progress over the last 2.5 years of the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR).

LUNAR, a consortium of top research institutions led by the University of Colorado, is performing research, education, outreach, and community development to advance science from the Moon.  Members of LUNAR are addressing some of the fundamental questions about the cosmos from the Moon including gravitational physics, cosmology, and heliophysics.

The following areas of astrophysics, planetary science and exploration science are covered:

(1) Low frequency cosmology and astrophysics:

The LUNAR team is examining the scientific case for future radio telescopes in lunar orbit or on the lunar surface. Technology development is under way 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.  A concept has also been developed for a lunar orbiting mission designed to track the impact of the first stars and black holes during the Dark Ages and the Cosmic Dawn of the Universe.

(2) Radio heliophysics:

The LUNAR team is examining the role of low-frequency radio observations of the heliosphere from the surface of the Moon in determining how the Sun accelerates particles to high energy.  This includes using existing radio observations from the two STEREO spacecraft, and optimizing the design of a lunar surface solar imaging radio array at frequencies <10 MHz.

(3) Gravitational physics and lunar structure:

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 key project of the LUNAR team is addressing the design, fabrication and emplacement of the next generation of retro-reflectors for the Moon.

(4) Exploration science:

The LUNAR team, in collaboration with Lockheed-Martin, is devising strategies for early robotic exploration and deployment of radio arrays on the lunar farside using teleoperation from the Orion Crew Module.  The LUNAR team is working with Honeybee Robotics to develop a gas-assisted drill tool to thermally anchor next-generation retroreflectors to the lunar regolith.  LUNAR team members have also developed superconducting bearings and mirrors fabricated from lunar simulant cement for future telescopes.