Date Published:August 1, 2005
A study has been made of the feasibility and scientific potential of a20-to 100-m aperture astronomical telescope at the lunar pole, with itsprimary mirror made of spinning liquid at < 100 K. Such a telescope,equipped with imaging and multiplexed spectroscopic instruments for adeep-infrared survey, would be revolutionary in its power to study thedistant Universe, including the formation of the first stars and theirassembly into galaxies. Our study explored the scientific opportunities,key technologies, and optimum location of such a Lunar Liquid MirrorTelescope (LLMT). An optical design for a 20- m telescope withdiffraction limited imaging over a 15-arcminute field has beendeveloped. It would be used to follow up on discoveries made with the6-m James Webb Space Telescope, with more detailed images andspectroscopic studies, as well as to detect objects 100 times fainter,such as the first high-redshift star in the early Universe. Amodel wasmade of a liquid mirror spinning on a superconducting bearing, as willbe needed for the cryogenic, vacuum environment of the LLMT. Reflectivesilver coatings have been deposited for the first time on a liquidsurface, needed to make infrared mirrors at ~80 K. Issues relating topolar locations have been explored. Dust on the optics or in a thinatmosphere, though unlikely to be problematic at the poles, should beinvestigated in-situ. Issues relating to polar locations have beenexplored. Locations at or within a few km of a pole are preferred fordeep-sky cover, and allow for long integration times by simpleinstrument rotation. This revolutionary mission concept could provide ascientific focus to NASA's planned exploration of the Moon, just ascurrently HST stands as a major achievement of its Shuttle Program.