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Plans afoot to place radio telescope on far side of Moon  


BENGALURU: Raman Research Institute (RRI) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are mulling over a plan to put a sophisticated radio telescope on the far side of the Moon to detect the elusive radio signal from the age of the universe when the first stars and galaxies were born. Dr Saurabh Singh, Research Scientist, RRI, said the far side of the Moon is known to be the “quietest” location in the solar system for radio telescopes to function to detect cosmic radio signals without any interference from terrestrial-based radio frequencies. 

ISRO has funded a study conducted by the RRI to work out the feasibility of placing a radio telescope named Pratush, which is presently being built by RRI. Dr Singh said the biggest problem faced by radio signals-hunting astronomers around the world is that the cosmic signals are in the radio frequency wavelength band used by several communications equipment, TV and FM radio station, which interfere with finding genuine cosmic radio signals. This will not be the case with a radio telescope functioning in the “quiet” environs of the moon’s far side which will be shielded from terrestrial radio frequency interference.

The project which is still in its nascent phase is being planned to be carried out in two phases. The first phase will see the radio telescope being tested in earth’s own orbit. This will be more like a laboratory model, and will be brought down to earth after the tests to determine its functions in space.  

The second phase will actually see the radio telescope being launched onboard ISRO’s satellite launching rockets to take Pratush into the lunar orbit and then sent down on the lunar surface on the far side of the moon, which remains hidden from the earth as the moon’s rotation and revolution being the same, ensure that only one side always faces the earth. “This is only a plan at this stage, but it is being worked out. We are looking at it being launched on one of the next few ISRO missions to the moon,” Dr Singh said.