As the saying goes – ‘I see you’. For the next time you set your eyes on the moon, remember that an electronic set of eyes might be looking back at you from the same destination. According to Chinese officials, their advanced robotic telescope has been operating on quite an efficient level since it made its landing on the moon surface in 2013. This tiny 15-cm long telescope is integrated with the Chang’e 3 lander that made its debut on the lunar lands in December of 2013. Interestingly, the still-functioning lander also carried the much touted Yutu rover. However, the rover mechanism was not effective enough during the lunar night cycles, especially after being affected by the corrosive lunar dusts – which led to its shutting down back in March, 2015.
Now beyond what may seem as diabolical plans, the Chang’e 3 lander telescope does fulfill its practical purpose by taking advantage of the astronomical qualities of moon. For example, since the moon doesn’t boast of any atmosphere, it is far easier to gauge the ultraviolet lights from celestial objects from the lunar surface (as opposed to Earth). Moreover, the rotation of moon is a whopping 27-times slower than that of Earth, thus allowing the robotic telescope to focus more precisely on selected stars for days at an end.
When translated to results, the telescope really did achieve some impressive feats, by monitoring around 40 stars in an observation period that went beyond 2,000 hours, while operating on the lunar surface for the first 18 months. The Chinese scientists also found a way to shield their moon-based telescope from the baleful effects of the lunar dusts, by stashing the equipment inside the sturdy Chang’e 3 lander during the sunrise and sunset cycles. These mitigating measures have actually increased the expected life-service of the device beyond just one year. And, as of now, the researchers are still looking forth to stretch its mission credentials – which would allow the lunar telescope to function even after 2015.