By Rowan Obach, C2ST Intern, Loyola University
Sites for research in space are reaching astronomical levels, with some scientists proposing the idea of an international workstation on the moon. The man who proposed this idea, Dr. Karan Jani, is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University and is an well acclaimed astrophysicist in the field.
Dr. Jani’s main focus of study is gravitational wave detection. As we know, gravity is a force that dictates a lot of what we do on Earth. However, in space, gravity is slightly more complicated. Astrophysicists have been working on understanding how gravitational fields shape galaxies and other bodies in space for a long time. Currently, we know that gravitational fields explain why Earth rotates around the Sun, what role gravity played in the formation of the galaxy and how gravity works in and around black holes, but there is much more to discover
Although we know a lot about how gravity works, we don’t really know where it comes from, especially in space. In fact, there are a lot of things we don’t know about space. That’s one of the reasons Jani is pushing for this initiative. His proposed workstation would act as a hub for research. It has been temporarily named “Gravitational-Wave Lunar Observatory for Cosmology.”
Dr. Jani led the planning of this idea during a workshop on October 25th. The workshop involved international discussions about possibilities of gravitational wave detection on the moon. EurekAlerts notes that the workshop “drew a broad consensus that fundamental physics and astronomy may have immense potential on the moon”.
The goal of this permanent station would be to create an observatory for gravitational waves. The moon doesn’t have an atmosphere and doesn’t have much seismic activity (such as earthquakes). Due to this and its position relative to the Earth, it would be easier to map out where the wave movements are occurring.
The budget for this station may be in the billions, but recently more private partners are looking to invest in space travel. This allows for proposals, like this space base, to have the potential to operate for generations.
The space race is speeding up! With Elon Musk’s recent venture into space, Jani notes that others will be quick to follow. “It’s only a matter of time before we have our graduate students taking shifts on the moon!”, he says.