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First Chang’e-4 Mission Radio Telescope Is Operational, and ‘The Moon Night Is Ours, Now !’

Printable version / Version imprimable

EIRNS—The Netherlands-China Low Frequency Explorer (NCLE) radio telescope, mounted on the Queqiao communications satellite orbitting the Moon as part of China’s Chang’e-4 mission on the far side of the Moon, has commenced operations, Universe Today website reported on Nov. 30.

This opens the next phase of Change-4’s mission : radio astronomy from the Moon’s far side, whereby Humanity can finally look out at the universe in very low frequencies, from a vantage point shielded from the electromagnetically-noisy Earth, and “see” all kinds of new phenomena. Marc Klein Wolt, the Managing Director of the Radboud Radio Lab and leader of the Dutch team working on the NCLE, captured the excitement of this beginning :

“Our contribution to the Chinese Chang’e-4 mission has now increased tremendously. We have the opportunity to perform our observations during the 14-day-long night behind the Moon, which is much longer than was originally the idea. The Moon night is ours, now.”

The NCLE consists of three 5 meter monopole antennas that are sensitive to radio frequencies in the 80 kHz-80 MHz range, Universe Today reports. The antennas are not fully deployed at this time, because of “sluggishness” which developed in their unfolding part way through, at which point the team decided to begin collecting data from the partially-deployed antennas. “At their current, shorter deployment, the instrument is sensitive to signals from roughly 13 billion years ago” ; once the antennas are unfolded to their full length, they will be able to capture signals from further back in time.