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Journal Articles Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (1934–1990) Year : 2021

OWL-Moon in 2050 and beyond


We address three major questions in astronomy, namely the detection of biosignatures on habitable exoplanets, the geophysics of exoplanets and cosmology. To achieve this goal, two requirements are needed: (i) a very large aperture to detect spectro-polarimetric and spatial features of faint objects such as exoplanets, (ii) continuous monitoring to characterize the temporal behaviour of exoplanets such as rotation period, meteorology and seasons. An Earth-based telescope is not suited for continuous monitoring and the atmosphere limits the ultimate angular resolution and spectro-polarimetrical domain. Moreover, a space telescope in orbit is limited in aperture, to perhaps 15 m over many decades. This is why we propose an OWL-class lunar telescope with a 50-100 m aperture for visible and IR astronomy, based on ESO's Overwhelmingly Large Telescope concept, unachievable on Earth for technical issues such as wind stress that are not relevant for a lunar platform. It will be installed near the south pole of the Moon to allow continuous target monitoring. The low gravity of the Moon will facilitate its building and manoeuvring, compared to Earth-based telescopes. We introduce a new original idea: such a large lunar telescope will allow Intensity Interferometric measurements when coupled with large Earth-based telescopes, leading to picosecond angular resolution. Rather than going into all details, our objective is essentially to inject new ideas and give a kind of roadmap. In particular, the choice of a final location will have to find a compromise between the cool temperature of craters at the Moon South Pole and the visibility of Earth for some science objectives.

This article is part of a discussion meeting issue `Astronomy from the Moon: the next decades'.

Dates and versions

insu-03748225 , version 1 (09-08-2022)



Jean Schneider, Joseph Silk, Farrokh Vakili. OWL-Moon in 2050 and beyond. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (1934–1990), 2021, 379, ⟨10.1098/rsta.2020.0187⟩. ⟨insu-03748225⟩
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