Scientists propose building moon telescopes

September 04, 1992|By Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- Scientists are seeking to build huge telescopes on the surface of the moon.

The proposal, astronomers said yesterday, offers the best chance of someday detecting planets around other stars and perhaps even signs of life on those planets.

The moon is one of the best sites for both optical and radio astronomy, with significant advantages over both Earth-based and space-based telescopes, according to Bernard Burke, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Burke outlined the possibilities for lunar astronomy in a talk at the World Space Congress here.

Like the Earth, the moon offers a stable, solid base that makes it easier to mount and accurately point telescopes than those that are floating in orbit.

But the moon has no atmosphere to cause blurring of the images of distant stars.

Although NASA has no plans for building lunar telescopes, MrBurke said the NASA chief, Daniel Goldin, "would dearly like to see" such a program.

Proposals for a series of lunar telescopes -- beginning with smalinstruments to test the idea and gradually building up to larger, more ambitious systems -- are contained in a recent report by a science working group convened by NASA, of which Mr. Burke was the chairman.

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