Telescopes in space or on the Moon are ideal for peering into space. In space there is no atmosphere to blur light for observation. Telescope arrays add more viewing power for observation. Robots can construct the prefabricated parts to build telescopes.
Limitations of ground based telescopes
On ground, the telescope mirrors must be calibrated on a micro level with pistons, determined by a laser guided star to compensate against the turbulence of the atmosphere: the mirror must physically warp to make accurate views of celestial bodies. In outer-space the need for this mirror adjustment is eliminated since there is no atmosphere there.
Existing orbital telescopes
- RadioAstron - Russian radio telescope
- SOHO - Solar telescope
- Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph - Solar telescope launched from air. Video of launch.
- Chandra X-ray Observatory
Planned orbital telescopes
Some space telescopes have already been launched from air. Pegasus rockets have launched the IRIS, and NuSTAR space telescopes.
It would be interesting if a telescope array could be built together like lego blocks in space, that can always be added to.
The moon can provide a solid base for Astronomical telescopes. Scientists wouldn't have to worry about sustaining the telescope in orbit if it were placed on the Moon. The far side of the moon is shielded from Earth based light and noise radio signals, that would otherwise interfere with the telescope.
One problem with putting telescopes on the Moon is that the Moon's exosphere is not always free from water vapor, this amount is still relatively low compared to Earth.
Space based companies are taking interest in placing a telescope on the Moon. Moon Express, Inc. and International Lunar Observatory Association have visions of establishing the International Lunar Observatory on a crater rim on the Moon. A lunar observatory or at least a precursor test is planned for 2016, and the observatory is to be accessible through the internet.
- Moon's Water May Be Bad News For Lunar Telescopes, Space.com, 2010 Unknown parameter
- Butler (2013), Telescope on the moon: Private plan for public access, IPU.com
- Bryner (2006), Lunar Observatories: Grand Plans vs. Clear Problems, Space.com