Discovering the sky at the longest wavelengths (DSL)

Albert Jan Boonstra, Michael Garrett, Gert Kruithof, Michael Wise, Arnold van Ardenne, Marinus Jan Bentum

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    The radio sky at frequencies below ~30 MHz is virtually unobservable from Earth due to ionospheric disturbances and the opaqueness of the ionosphere below ~10MHz, and also due to strong terrestrial radio interference. Deploying a radio observatory in space would open up this largely unexplored frequency band for science in astronomy, cosmology, geophysics, and space science. A Chinese-European team is proposing an ultra long wavelength (ULW) radio interferometer mission DSL (Discovering the Sky at the Longest Wavelengths). The proposed radio interferometer will be deployed in low-altitude lunar orbit, exploiting the radio quietness of the lunar far side. DSL will consist of a mother-spacecraft for data transport and control, plus eight small micro-satellites each equipped with three orthogonal dipoles. These satellites form a virtual distributed observatory with adjustable baselines, allowing different scientific observation strategies. The satellites are configured in a flexible quasi-linear array in nearly identical orbits, guaranteeing low relative drift rates. Short orbital periods and orbit precession ensure quick filling of the interferometric spatial frequency (u, v, w) space, enabling high quality imaging. The science themes considered for the DSL mission include pioneering studies of the unknown and exploratory science such as the search for signatures of the cosmological Dark Ages, complementing current (e.g. LOFAR) and future SKA telescope searches; full-sky continuum survey of discrete sources, including ultra-steep spectrum extragalactic sources, pulsars, and transients (galactic and extragalactic); full-sky map of continuum diffuse emission; solar-terrestrial physics, planetary sciences, and cosmic ray physics. The main frequency band covered is 1-30 MHz extending down to 0.1 MHz, and up to about 50 MHz for cross-referencing with ground-based instruments. DSL will support a variety of observational modes, including broad-band spectral analysis for Dark Ages, radio interferometric cross-correlations for imaging, and flexible raw data downlink capability. Data processing will be performed at radio astronomy science data centres in Europe and China.
    Original languageUndefined
    Title of host publication2016 IEEE Aerospace Conference
    Place of PublicationUSA
    PublisherIEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society
    Number of pages20
    ISBN (Print)978-1-4673-7676-1
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2016
    Event2016 IEEE Aerospace Conference - Yellowstone Conference Center, Big Sky, United States
    Duration: 5 Mar 201612 Mar 2016

    Publication series

    PublisherIEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society


    Conference2016 IEEE Aerospace Conference
    CountryUnited States
    CityBig Sky


    • EWI-27080
    • IR-101030
    • METIS-318462

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