The Green Bank Telescope Snaps New Hot Photos of the Moon

This unusual view of the Moon, made with the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), shows the glow from the Moon’s heat revealing features undetectable to an ordinary telescope that sees only reflected light.

This image was made using a new, extremely sensitive radio camera called MUSTANG-2, which detects high frequency radio waves, and the GBT, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. The wavelength of the radio waves detected by the camera is about 3.3mm (a frequency of 90 GHz), which makes it able to measure the temperature of the Moon as if it were sticking a thermometer into its surface.

The image slider above provides three views of the Moon – optical, MUSTANG-2 unfiltered radio image, and MUSTANG-2 radio image (filtered). Advance the slider by clicking the arrows on the right or left to view all the images. Images may be saved individually for use in other publications. All images should retain the image caption/source information.

In the thermal image, the Moon’s North Pole points towards the upper left, and the Sun’s illumination comes from the upper right. We can see the patterns of some of the vast dark plains, or maria, created by enormous lava flows billions of years ago. Ordinarily, when we look at the Moon in reflected sunlight, these maria give the Moon its distinctive pattern of dark patches, but in the MUSTANG-2/GBT image some appear bright, which means that they are warmer than their surroundings. One of these bright maria just to the upper right of center is the Sea of Tranquility, the landing site for the Apollo 11 mission.

Many craters are also visible, but these craters look very different than they do in the optical photographs that we are used to. The normally prominent rays emanating from the Tycho crater (near bottom center) are almost entirely absent because they are formed from compositional differences that do not have a distinct temperature signature. Scientists may use images like this to learn more about the Moon’s geologic history.

The level of detail in this new image of the Moon is made possible by the high angular resolution of the MUSTANG-2 camera (9 arcseconds) which can discern features as small as 16km (10 miles) on the Moon’s surface. Because of the extreme sensitivity of this 223-pixel bolometer camera, in use with the giant collecting surface of the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope, it took less than 40 minutes to make this image.

The MUSTANG-2 camera was developed by the University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with the Green Bank Observatory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the University of Michigan, and Cardiff University.  The MUSTANG-2 team is supported by the National Science Foundation (1615604), the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Society, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Animation of optical image of the Moon with the enhanced MUSTANG-2 radio image. Animation: PVosteen, GBO/AUI/NSF; Optical image: Dr. Alan Potts, County Durham, UK

The Green Bank Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation and is operated by Associated Universities, Inc.

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Contacts:

Jill Malusky, Public Relations Specialist, Green Bank Observatory, 304-456-2236, [email protected]

Mark Devlin, 215-573-7521, [email protected] , University of Pennsylvania

Simon Dicker, 215-573-7558, [email protected], University of Pennsylvania

Paul Hayne, (303) 735-6399, [email protected], University of Colorado, Boulder

NRAO Director Tony Beasley Appointed to New Five-Year Term

 

Dr. Tony Beasley, Director of the National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), has been appointed to a new five-year term. The Board of Trustees for AUI— which operates NRAO under a cooperative agreement— and the NRAO Director Review Committee conducted a thorough review of Beasley’s leadership and performance earlier this year, and have appointed the Director to the new term through May 2027.

 

“Tony is an outstanding leader and stalwart champion for NRAO, the field of radio astronomy, the beauty of science, and the critical role of big facilities in the R&D ecosystem,” said Adam Cohen, President and CEO of AUI, which operates NRAO under a cooperative agreement. “He continues to support very innovative education and outreach programs to help build the workforce of the future, as well as programs and activities to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workplaces.” 

 

Over the course of more than two decades, Beasley’s leadership has shaped the present and future of NRAO’s leading-edge radio astronomy facilities, including the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), and Very Large Array (VLA). More recently, he has collaborated on efforts to encourage cooperation between commercial spectrum users and research facilities and has created partnerships to explore the use of Green Bank Observatory’s radar systems in planetary science and defense applications. 

 

Beasley recently has generated significant support for the future of NRAO’s facilities, reaching major milestones in 2021. The observatory’s proposed next generation Very Large Array (ngVLA) received high priority for new ground-based observatories in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey (Astro2020). Late last year, NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory (CDL) received approval and funding through the ambitious ALMA2030 Development Plan to upgrade its Band 6 receivers, which are ALMA’s most productive receivers. 

 

An ardent supporter of diversity, equity, and inclusion in astronomy and astrophysics, Beasley has elevated the efforts of NRAO’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Broader Impacts, and community development initiatives, including the National Astronomy Consortium (NAC), RADIAL, National and International Non-traditional Exchange (NINE), Research Experiences for Undergraduate students (REU), and most recently, grants for women in engineering fellowships and the development of a next generation Learning Center (ngLC). 

 

“Being a part of NRAO for more than 20 years has given me the opportunity to observe, contribute to, and lead growth and change in astronomy that positively impacts our facilities and allows us to collaborate with other like-minded institutions,” said Beasley. “I am proud of the work our teams have accomplished in research, engineering, outreach, and equity, and look forward to serving the NRAO community for another five years.”

 

Beasley, who holds a Doctorate in Astrophysics from the University of Sydney, was first appointed as NRAO Director in February 2012, after previously serving the observatory and the radio astronomy community in multiple capacities. He joined NRAO as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 1991 and served as Deputy Assistant Director in 1997 and Assistant Director from 1998 to 2000. He briefly left NRAO that year to become Project Manager for the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA). In 2004, he returned to NRAO as Assistant Director, as well as Project Manager for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. From 2008 to 2012, Beasley served as the Chief Operating Officer and Project Manager of NSF’s National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). In addition to his role as NRAO Director, Beasley presently serves as the AUI Vice President for Radio Astronomy Operations. 

 

In January 2022, Beasley was honored as a Lifetime Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in recognition of his significant contributions to the field of radio astronomy. 

 

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