Radio telescope on the far side of the moon is switched on for the first time

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Radio telescope on the far side of the moon is switched on for the first time to begin its investigation into how the universe began and what came before the Big Bang The Netherlands-China Low Frequency Explorer will search for early signals It will examine the weak radio signals from the period just after the Big Bang It was launched on the QueQiao satellite as part of the China Chang'e mission  The antennae are only partially deployed at the moment while they test the data Eventually it will be able to capture signals from just after the Big Bang 

By Ryan Morrison For Mailonline

Published: 12:13 GMT, 2 December 2019 | Updated: 12:13 GMT, 2 December 2019

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How the universe began and what happened before the big bang are just two of the 'big questions' we may soon have an answer to thanks to a new space telescope.

The new Dutch radio telescope sitting on a Chinese satellite has started observations from behind the far side of the moon after being activated by scientists.

The telescope, called the Netherlands-China Low Frequency Explorer (NCLE), was sent to the moon as part of the Chinese Chang'e 4 mission. 

It is a prototype built to record weak radio signals from a period just following the Big Bang, called the Dark Ages and could point to the origins of the universe. 

The new Dutch radio telescope - pictured here - sitting on a Chinese satellite has started observations from behind the far side of the moon after being activated by scientists

The new Dutch radio telescope - pictured here - sitting on a Chinese satellite has started observations from behind the far side of the moon after being activated by scientists

These signals are blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere, which is why the telescope was placed on a satellite and brought to a location behind the moon.

The equipment for the telescope is on the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) satellite called QueQiao and is about 280,000miles from Earth.

QueQiao has been helping the Chinese lunar lander navigate its way around the far side of the moon's surface since early 2019, meaning it was not immediately available to become the radio telescope it was designed to be. 

Before it could be used as a radio telescope the QueQiao satellite had to relay signals from Earth to the Chinese lunar lander as it is impossible to send signals direct from Earth to the far side of the moon (artists impression of the process)

Before it could be used as a radio telescope the QueQiao satellite had to relay signals from Earth to the Chinese lunar lander as it is impossible to send signals direct from Earth to the far side of the moon (artists impression of the process)

As the telescope had to sit in space with its antennae folded for more than a year the team decided to only partially unfold them while they gather some initial data.

The partially deployed antennae are still sensitive to signals from 13billion years ago - about 800million years after the Big Bang.

Once they have been unfolded fully they will be able to go further back in time and capture signals from just after the Big Bang, giving astronomers an insight into the first stars being born and the earliest galaxies coming together. 

Heino Falcke of Radboud University and scientific leader of the Dutch-Chinese radio telescope says he can't wait to get his hands on the first measurements. 

"We are finally in business and have a radio-astronomy instrument of Dutch origin in

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