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Space exploration - An extremely large diameter spinning liquid mirror telescope to be based on the Earth's moon; zenith telescope; circular paraboloid - Space Art Illustration
 

Lunar liquid mirror telescope

In this speculative illustration, a giant liquid mirror telescope 1 kilometer wide (6 tenths of a mile) and 1 kilometer tall lies nestled in an approximately 1 kilometer wide crater near the Moon's south pole. In the foreground is a kind of lunar city for human habitation composed of pressurized and radiation-hardened living units. On the upper right are landing pads for transports arriving to and departing from the lunar surface.

A liquid mirror telescope is a Newtonian reflecting type telescope that employs a reflecting liquid as the primary mirror. A concept first identified 300 years ago by Isaac Newton himself, the reflecting liquid assumes the proper paraboloidal shape by rotating the container the liquid is in. On Earth working liquid mirror telescopes have been created with diameters up to 20 feet using mercury metal as the reflecting liquid. One limitation is that liquid metal mirror can only be used in zenith telescopes that look straight up at the sky, so it is not suitable for investigations where the telescope must remain pointing at the same location of space.

Given its low surface gravity and lack of distorting atmosphere, the Moon would be an ideal location for an extremely large liquid mirror telescope, however instead of mercury other liquids have been proposed, including low temperature ionic liquids that would be especially suitable for infrared observations. Given the Moon's lack of atmospheric pressure, any such liquid would need to have a zero vapor pressure to keep it from boiling away.

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Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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