FARSIDE: A Low Radio Frequency Interferometric Array on the Lunar Farside
Published 2019-07-11Version 1
FARSIDE (Farside Array for Radio Science Investigations of the Dark ages and Exoplanets) is a Probe-class concept to place a low radio frequency interferometric array on the farside of the Moon. A NASA-funded design study, focused on the instrument, a deployment rover, the lander and base station, delivered an architecture broadly consistent with the requirements for a Probe mission. This notional architecture consists of 128 dual polarization antennas deployed across a 10 km area by a rover, and tethered to a base station for central processing, power and data transmission to the Lunar Gateway. FARSIDE would provide the capability to image the entire sky each minute in 1400 channels spanning frequencies from 100 kHz to 40 MHz, extending down two orders of magnitude below bands accessible to ground-based radio astronomy. The lunar farside can simultaneously provide isolation from terrestrial radio frequency interference, auroral kilometric radiation, and plasma noise from the solar wind. This would enable near-continuous monitoring of the nearest stellar systems in the search for the radio signatures of coronal mass ejections and energetic particle events, and would also detect the magnetospheres for the nearest candidate habitable exoplanets. Simultaneously, FARSIDE would be used to characterize similar activity in our own solar system, from the Sun to the outer planets, including the hypothetical Planet Nine. Through precision calibration via an orbiting beacon, and exquisite foreground characterization, FARSIDE would also measure the Dark Ages global 21-cm signal at redshifts z=50-100. The unique observational window offered by FARSIDE would enable an abundance of additional science ranging from sounding of the lunar subsurface to characterization of the interstellar medium in the solar system neighborhood.