A Ground-Based Radio Telescope Captured The Landing Site of American Astronauts on The Moon

The National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory (GBO) and National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and Raytheon Intelligence & Space conducted a test in November to prove that a new radio telescope system can capture high-resolution images in near-Earth space.

The technology was developed as part of a cooperative research and development agreement between NRAO, GBO, and Raytheon.

The new transmitter of the world’s largest radio telescope Green Bank has allowed astronomers using the Very Long Baseline Array telescope complex to obtain a radar image of the moon landing site of the American Apollo-15 mission.

(Image: © Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/GBO/Raytheon/AUI/NSF/USGS)

Tests have shown that the new system is capable of receiving high-resolution images of objects in near-Earth space.

By reflecting a powerful radar signal from the lunar surface, the new instrument was able to achieve a spectacular resolution, showing objects as small as 5 meters.

Unbelievable, but twice as much can be achieved. After successfully proving the concept, the team will work on an even more powerful transmitter – a radar system with a power of 500 kilowatts, which will allow them to get even greater details.

This tool would be useful to observe more closely, for example, our Moon and the moons of other planets. It can even be used to capture passing asteroids and space debris that are too faint to be seen with optical telescopes, but can be examined using radar technology.

Moon's surface Apollo 15
This radar image shows the region where Apollo 15 landed in 1971. To find the landing site, follow the Hadley Rille (the snake-like line) down from the Hadley C crater (the nearby dent); the Apollo 15 landed near where the rille begins to shoot off towards the right side of the image. (Image credit: NRAO/GBO/Raytheon/NSF/AUI)

This project opens a whole new range of capabilities for both NRAO and GBO,” said Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and vice president for Radio Astronomy at Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI). “We’ve participated before in important radar studies of the Solar System, but turning the GBT into a steerable planetary radar transmitter will greatly expand our ability to pursue intriguing new lines of research.

“The planned system will be a leap forward in radar science, allowing access to never before seen features of the Solar System from right here on Earth,” said Karen O’Neil, the Green Bank Observatory site director.


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