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Low Radio Frequency Astrophysics from the Farside of the Moon

Published onJun 01, 2020
Low Radio Frequency Astrophysics from the Farside of the Moon

I will describe the results of a NASA-funded design study to place a low radio frequency interferometric array on the farside of the Moon. FARSIDE (Farside Array for Radio Science Investigations of the Dark ages and Exoplanets) is a Probe-class concept developed in collaboration with Caltech/JPL. The study, focused on the instrument, a deployment rover, the lander and base station, delivered an architecture broadly consistent with the requirements for a Probe mission. This notional architecture consists of 128 dipole antennas deployed across a 10 km area by a rover, and tethered to a base station for central processing, power and data transmission to the Lunar Gateway, or an alternative relay satellite. FARSIDE would provide the capability to image the entire sky each minute in 1400 channels spanning frequencies from 100 kHz to 40 MHz, extending down two orders of magnitude below bands accessible to ground-based radio astronomy. The lunar farside can simultaneously provide isolation from terrestrial radio frequency interference, auroral kilometric radiation, and plasma noise from the solar wind. It is thus the only location within the inner solar system from which sky noise limited observations can be carried out at sub-MHz frequencies. This would enable near-continuous monitoring of the closest stellar systems in the search for the radio signatures of coronal mass ejections and energetic particle events, and would also detect the magnetospheres for the nearest candidate habitable exoplanets. Through precision calibration via an orbiting beacon, and exquisite foreground characterization, FARSIDE would also measure the cosmic Dark Ages global 21-cm signal at redshifts z ~ 50–100. It would be a pathfinder for a larger 21-cm power spectrum instrument by carefully measuring the foreground with high dynamic range.

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