By Patricia Daukantas
Usually, press conferences at scientific meetings present results that have already happened instead of things that might come in handy someday. At this week’s American Astronomical Society meeting, however, a group of scientists presented a recipe for making mirrors on the moon using materials that happen to be convenient—including lots of moon dust.
Peter Chen and colleagues at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have already manufactured a 12-inch-diameter mirror blank with the technique, which they say could be scaled up on the Moon to produce telescope mirrors as much as 50 m in diameter. Such mirrors would dwarf those of any optical telescopes on Earth.
Chen, also of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and his NASA team mixed carbon nanotubes and epoxy with crushed rock of the same composition and grain size as dust from the lunar surface. They found that their concoction made a strong material that could be configured as a telescope mirror, which is normally made with glass.
Several amateur astronomers—who have their own club at the NASA facility—advised Chen’s group on the polishing experiments and other details.
NASA has a Web site on the prospective lunar telescope technology and folks in both the science press and the blogosphere have been weighing in on the project as well.
2008-06 June, Astronomy, Miscellaneous Optics