Whilst browsing the arxiv today I stumbled across a data release from a pretty unique telescope. Until today I was completely unaware of its existence, but in fact the Lunar-based Ultraviolet Telescope (LUT) reported is first results last year and has now studied enough stars (86,467) to warrant its own catalogue.

What makes the LUT unique is that it’s the “first long term lunar-based astronomical observatory”, or in other words, the first proper telescope on the Moon. The Moon is a pretty ideal place to put a telescope thanks to its thin atmosphere and slow rotation, which allows uninterrupted tracking of the same patch of sky over long periods. It also has advantages over orbiting space satellites, the main one I can think of being that if you leave it alone for a couple of decades your multi billion dollar investment doesn’t end up burning up in the atmosphere. The only pain is you have to lift your telescope out of the Earth’s potential well only to go and carefully lower it down the Moon’s potential well to the surface, which is not only energy consuming but also tricky.

What’s also interesting is that this is a Chinese mission, which may excuse why it’s gone under my radar.