New moon: Aspen physics lecture takes new look at familiar subject |

New moon: Aspen physics lecture takes new look at familiar subject

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – In terms of space exploration, the moon is old hat. So late ’60s.

Or is it?

Jack Burns, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, will offer the point of view that Earth’s moon has plenty left to reveal to humankind in a presentation Wednesday at the Wheeler Opera House. The talk, Exploring the Cosmos from the Moon, is part of the Aspen Center for Physics’ Winter Lecture Series. The free event begins at 5:40 p.m.

“We’ve just stepped in the front door of a magnificent library,” Burns says of the moon. “The moon, because it lacks an atmosphere, has the cosmic history of the last 4.5 billion years imprinted on its pockmarked surface, while on the earth this history has been erased by wind and water and life. Further, with the confirmation of water on the moon last November, in-depth human exploration will be even more feasible, and at a lower cost since we won’t have to transport all of our water. The moon will show us how we might survive and even thrive on hostile planets. And it will act as a platform to explore other planets.”

Even more significant, says Burns, the far side of the moon offers an ideal platform for a low-frequency radio array that will enable scientists to “listen to whispers” from the very early universe when the first hydrogen atoms began clumping together to form stars, black holes and quasars. These transmissions are blocked by Earth’s ionosphere and the radio wave pollution produced on Earth. As the moon turns only one face toward the earth, the far side is shielded from our radio pollutants, making it an astronomer’s listening ear.

In addition to his faculty position, Burns is director of the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research, a $6.5 million center recently awarded to CU by the NASA Lunar Science Institute.

At 4:30 p.m., prior to Burns’ talk, Rennan Barkana from the Wise Observatory at Tel Aviv University, and Judd Bowman from Caltech, will answer questions during the informal Physics Cafe in the Wheeler lobby.

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