Sci Station Canada

Friday, January 28, 2005

A Levitating Liquid Lunar telescope!

The Bush initiative says it wants to send men back to the Moon and Mars. The Moon is a controversial choice - many say we should go straight to Mars - but a group of scientists from the U.S. and Canada think the Moon's north pole could be the perfect place for a Deep-Field Infrared Observatory to rival the work done by Hubble using a technique pioneered in Canada.

Universe Today has an article about Dr. Roger Angel of the University of Arizona who is heading a study under a NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant to put a Liquid Mirror Telescope (LMT) on the Moon.

It happens that the world experts on making spinning liquid mirror telescopes are all in Canada, so it was kind of essential that if we’re thinking of doing that on the moon that we bring them in,” Angel said. “Luckily, they have come in on their own ticket, so to speak, and are excited by the project.”

The Canadian members of the team are Emanno Borra, from Laval University in Quebec, who has been researching and building LMTs since the early 1980’s, and Paul Hickson, from University of British Columbia, who, with Borra’s help, built the 6 meter LMT in Vancouver. Other collaborators include Ki Ma at the University of Texas at Houston who is an expert on the cryogenic bearings, Warren Davison from the University of Arizona who is a mechanical engineering expert in telescopes, and graduate student Suresh Sivanandam.
The idea for supporting and spinning the mirror is pretty cool as well (if you'll forgive the pun!) using cryogenic levitation bearings, similar to those used on MagLev trains to get a frictionless motion by using a magnetic field. One of the advantages of siting this on the Moon is that it is so cold they could do this with very little electrical power.