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Nice Observatory for Lengthy Wavelengths (GO-LoW) funded by NASA NIAC program

Nice Observatory for Lengthy Wavelengths (GO-LoW) funded by NASA NIAC program

2023-04-11 14:31:52

A visionary Haystack proposal has been chosen for funding by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program: the Great Observatory for Long Wavelengths (GO-LoW). Led by Dr. Mary Knapp of MIT Haystack Observatory, the GO-LoW group of scientists and engineers contains Lenny Paritsky (Haystack), Dr. Melodie Kao (College of California, Santa Cruz), and Kat Kononov (MIT). “What excites me most about this challenge is the chance to see the universe in a manner that nobody ever has earlier than—actually making a brand-new map of the sky,” mentioned Knapp.

GO-LoW aims to reveal the as-of-yet unseen low-frequency radio sky. Scientists haven’t but been capable of view the universe at these frequencies, because the sky is hidden from ground-based telescopes by the Earth’s ionosphere. Radio alerts bounce off the ionosphere, a layer of the ambiance that accommodates charged particles, blocking out the low-frequency radio waves from house. Lengthy-wavelength observations require correspondingly massive telescopes to see clearly, so conventional dish antenna designs are infeasible in house.

Enter GO-LoW: an array of 1000’s of tiny, equivalent satellites—every smaller than a shoebox—working in shut coordination collectively as a bunch. This observatory will measure low-frequency electromagnetic radiation, which carries essential details about exoplanetary and stellar magnetic fields (a key lacking ingredient for habitability research) and different astronomical knowledge of excessive curiosity.

“GO-LoW is an incredible alternative for NASA to combine strengths from mission sizes at each extremes—its lowest-cost, most simply scalable SmallSat missions to the sheer observational energy of its generation-defining flagship missions—and open a complete new paradigm for house observatories,” mentioned Kao, a Heising-Simons 51 Pegasi b Fellow. “People have by no means earlier than seen the low-frequency radio sky, and neither have we constructed a Nice Observatory that may change form to swimsuit the science at hand—and even restore mechanical failures with out astronaut intervention. GO-LoW may very well be the pathway to completely new and sudden discoveries in addition to creating sustainable science infrastructure in house.”

Present house telescopes, such because the James Webb Area Telescope, encompass a single massive, costly spacecraft and are targeted on high- and mid-frequency wavelength observations; the GO-LoW challenge has proposed an observatory composed of 1000’s of straightforward, small, and comparatively low-cost satellites. The array will use interferometry—a way that mixes radio alerts from many smaller models into a big digital telescope—to acquire extremely detailed knowledge from exoplanets and different sources in house.

Graphic shows space telescopes and images produced by them across the electromagnetic spectrum above a representation of the Earth's atmospheric opacity across the EM spectrum.  Starting with gamma rays at the left, the graphic shows spacecraft CGRO, then Chandra for X-rays, followed by HST for UV/visible, then Spitzer for infrared.  Finally, GO-Low is represented on the far right side of the diagram as a cloud of small spacecraft.  GO-LoW is designed to access the lowest frequency radio waves at the extreme right side of the atmospheric opacity plot at the bottom of the diagram.
GO-LoW is a Nice Observatory idea to open the final unexplored window of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. The Earth’s ionosphere turns into opaque at roughly 10m wavelengths, so GO-LoW will be part of Nice Observatories like HST and JWST in house to entry this spectral window. (Supply picture courtesy NASA.)

“I’m excited as a result of this research is so distinct from current lengthy wavelength ideas: the science goal is exoplanetary radio emission, it leverages current development within the SmallSat and constellation trade, and it features a detailed evaluation of the sensing antenna,” mentioned Kononov. “I stay up for performing the antenna evaluation.” The vector sensor antenna (VSA) reveals promise in optimally sensing the electromagnetic area whereas sustaining a compact type issue. One of many research objectives is to investigate the VSA together with different antenna choices to find out which is able to provide the best per-element sensitivity.

Deploying 1000’s of satellites can be made attainable by a number of accelerating traits and expertise developments within the close to future, as can be additional investigated on this Section I research: the falling value of mass-produced small spacecraft, the arrival (and economics) of mega-constellations, and the return of huge, high-capacity rockets and lower-cost launches.

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Paritsky, who can be main the GO-LoW structure research, mentioned, “GO-LoW is the final word alternative to take a very radical idea—100 thousand satellites working collectively in deep house—and determine methods to make it a actuality. I’m excited to dive into the engineering and expertise behind the breakthrough science—the launch infrastructure, the satellite tv for pc structure, the communications community, the constellation administration, and extra!”

The final nice frontier in radio astronomy—the low-frequency finish of the electromagnetic spectrum—is on the verge of a brand new age, and the NIAC grant for GO-LoW’s preliminary research on the frontiers of experimental house expertise is a notable step ahead.

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