Wired are reporting on a feasability study from the NASA Institute for Advanced Studies on a giant liquid mirror telescope that could potentially be placed on the Moon. Roger Angel or the University of Arizona is the man in charge of this study and he is suggestying it may be possible to build a 100m diameter telescope on the Moon that would be able to collect 1,736 times mnore light than Hubble.
There is currently a 6m liquid telescope under construction in British Columbia, Canada (they already have a working 2.7m model, shown above) but if moved to the Moon a far larger structure could be built and then mantained more easily. With the Moon’s much weaker gravity buildings could be far larger without stressing under their own weight and they would be easier to move around, targeting the sky.
Liquid Mirror Telescopes (LMTs) cost 10 to 20 times less to manufacute than a polished aluminium mirror equivalent and in fact building a 20m LMT for the Moon would cost less than the $4.7 billion dollars NASA is spending on the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s succesor in the sky.
It seems that the ide ais sound enough and it is really just details left to debate. The greatest technical challenge is finding reflective liquids with low freezing points and vapor pressures (i.e. they would freeze or evaporate when placed on the Moon).
Ermanno Borra, of Laval University in Quebec, was the first made the case for an LMT on the Moon back in 1991. Recently, Borra has been experimenting with metal liquid-like films, that reflect light as effectively as aluminum. According to the Wired article, Borra declined to comment on his results until they’ve been published in Nature later this summer.