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China's Journey to the Far Side of the Moon --"Will It Lead to the 1st Radio Telescope Beyond Earth?" (Thursday's Most Popular)

 

 

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China's Chang'e 4 mission to the far side of the moon, planned for sometime before 2020 could eventually lead to the placement of a radio telescope for use by astronomers, something that would help "fill a void" in man's knowledge of the universe, according to Zou Yongliao with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' moon exploration department during a September 2015 interview on state broadcaster CCTV.

Radio transmissions from Earth are unable to reach the moon's far side, making it an excellent location for sensitive instruments.China's increasingly ambitious space program plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon's far side, a leading engineer said.  Zou said the mission's objective would be to study geological conditions on the moon's far side.

 

Topography of the near side (left) and far side (right) of moon shown below. On the map white and red colors represent high terrains and blue and purple are low terrains.

 

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Meanwhile, back on Earth, China has constructed reflection panels for the world’s biggest radio telescope, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). This radio telescope with an aperture of 500 meters is under construction in a natural basin in Guizhou Province. The telescope-under-construction has thousands of reflection panels; eventually the positions of these panels can be adjusted simultaneously to better receive radio waves from moving celestial bodies.

 

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The radio telescope will be twice as sensitive as the Arecibo Observatory operated by the United States. (Interestingly FAST was previously announced to become 3-times as sensitive, this is either a simpel typing error or an adjustment in expectation.) The new telescope is also capable of collecting data even from the outer rim of the solar system. The telescope should be finished and installed by September 2016. As said, once successfully constructed the telescope will become the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

It seems that the two sides of the moon have evolved differently since their formation, with the far side forming at cooler temperatures and remaining stiffer while the Earth side has been modified at higher temperatures and for longer. This information is extremely important for theories on the formation of the moon, of which the current favorite is the "Giant Impact" hypothesis.

The Giant Impact idea is that four and a half billion years ago a planet the size of Mars rammed Earth, kicking enough debris into orbit to accrete into an entirely new body. New research from geophysical scientist Junjun Zhang and colleagues at Origins Lab at the University of Chicago, suggests that the giant impact hypothes of the creation of the Moon might be wrong. The team found that in comparing titanium isotopes from both the moon and the Earth, that the match is too close to support the theory that the moon could have been made partly of material from another planet.

On the other hand, the researchers found that the Moon did show a similar composition of the silicon isotopic composition as the Earth. However, it, too, is much smaller than the Earth—about one-fiftieth as large as the Earth and about one percent of the Earth’s mass—making it even less likely to have been able to generate enough pressure to form an Earth-like iron core. This research was the first of its kind using isotopes in this manner and offers intriguing insights into the creation of Mars, the Earth, and the Moon. It may also help explain how life evolved on the Earth and whether or not it might have existed at some time on Mars..

Because the moon is tidally locked (meaning the same side always faces Earth), it was not until 1959 that the farside was first imaged by the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft (hence the Russian names for prominent farside features, such as Mare Moscoviense). And what a surprise -­ unlike the widespread maria on the nearside, basaltic volcanism was restricted to a relatively few, smaller regions on the farside, and the battered highlands crust dominated. A different world from what we saw from Earth.

China's next lunar mission is scheduled for 2017, when it will attempt to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon before returning to Earth with samples. If successful, that would make China only the third country after the United States and Russia to have carried out such a maneuver.

China's lunar exploration program, named Chang'e after a mythical goddess, has already launched a pair of orbiting lunar probes, and in 2013 landed a craft on the moon with a rover onboard.

China has also hinted at a possible crewed mission to the moon. China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and has powered ahead with a series of methodically timed steps, including the deploying of an experimental space station.

The Daily Galaxy via BEIJING (AP)

Image credit: svs.gsfc.nasa.gov 

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