Workshop: Astronomical Optical Interferometry from the Lunar Surface

November 18 - 22, 2024
California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA 91125

Workshop Overview:

The lunar surface is a compelling opportunity for large, distributed optical facilities, with advantages over orbital facilities for high-spatial-resolution scientific applications. Serious development of mission concepts is timely because of the confluence of two compelling factors: first, lunar access technology is maturing rapidly, in the form of both uncrewed and crewed landers of the Artemis program. Second, there has been a definitive maturation of astronomical optical interferometry technologies at Earth-based facilities over the past decade - opening windows on the universe previously inaccessible but limited by the Earth’s atmosphere.

This KISS Study program will establish the feasibility of mission concepts that can be realistically developed in the near term, within existing funding lines. The compelling nature of milli- to micro-arcsecond resolution science in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared will also be documented in the study report. Additionally, the workshop report will puncture myths about the lunar surface as a platform for astronomy.

By bringing together experts in the necessary, yet disparate, disciplines the specific opportunities afforded by lunar siting of interferometric telescopes can be highlighted. This convergence of expertise is necessary to achieve the interdisciplinary focus required for demonstrating the realistic, immediate achievability of pioneering facilities. The study program will highlight advances in the understanding of, and technology for, the lunar environment. This includes surface access, dust and thermal management, power and communication systems, and other issues. Specifically, the significant advantages for interferometer baseline management and simplification of input stations on the lunar surface will be demonstrated. Within this framework, the already demonstrated capabilities of Earth-based interferometric facilities can be realized on the lunar surface, amplifying those capabilities for significant gains against the goals of the Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

The principal objective of this workshop will be to assess the potential for lunar astronomical interferometry in the context of current flight opportunities and mission funding lines. A sober, wide-ranging assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of future lunar observatories will be an important focus of this workshop.  

Some notional 'Big Questions' to consider for this workshop will include:

  • What are key milestones on the way towards an interferometric lunar observatory?
  • What has changed in the last 5 to 10 years to make this a possibility?  What forthcoming developments will further enable this?
  • What can be done within the scope of each of the NASA Astrophysics funding lines - Pioneers, SMEX, MIDEX, Probe, Flagship?
  • Are robotic or crewed missions best for implementation of these ideas?
  • Are there implications that significantly impact the past Astrophysics Decadal, or the next one?
  • What are the greatest challenges for - or misunderstandings about - about astronomy from the lunar surface?
  • How do the cost, risk profiles, and science return of interferometric lunar observatories compare to orbital facilities?

A key outcome of this workshop will be to collect and document our findings in a comprehensive report for leaders and decision makers in the field.  Our intention is that the widest range of possible mission opportunities be available to competitive proposals, for uniquely addressing scientific questions of interest to the astrophysics community.  

Schedule coming soon...

List of Workshop Participants Coming Soon...

Lodging for out-of-town attendees

There are a number of hotels that are close to the Caltech campus where we have a negotiated rate. (Please note that this negotiated rate does not guarantee you the lowest rate as there may be internet specials or AAA rates that may be better.)

Please note that with enough notice, you can reserve rooms for attendees at the Athenaeum, which has been recognized as a Platinum Club of America. Newly refurbished, it is conveniently located on the Caltech Campus. Contact Janet Seid if you would like to check the availability of this option.

Directions to the Keck Center

For information on arriving to the Keck Center, visit our Maps & Directions page.

Parking (for Visitors and for JPL Personnel)

For Visitors: From the Arroyo Parkway, turn right (east) on Del Mar Avenue. Proceed approximately one and a quarter miles. The Caltech campus will be on your right. Turn right (south) onto Wilson Avenue. Turn right into the North Wilson Structure and park in an unmarked spot. Buy a parking permit from the kiosk located inside the North Wilson Structure or request one ahead of time from KISS.

For JPL Personnel: JPLers may use their JPL hang tag for parking or request a special parking hangtag from the JPL parking office. Employees who do not have on-Lab parking privileges can obtain a hang tag created for this purpose from JPL parking coordinator Robert Kennedy (818-354-4586, Building 310-108B, 9/80 schedule). Please park in an unmarked spot in the North Wilson Structure located on Wilson Avenue.

Maps and General Information on Pasadena

Visa Requirements

For Visa requirement information and travel to the United States please visit the website of the U.S. Department of State.