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Doctor Richard Miller Primes Huntsville for a Moonshot

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Physicist Doctor Richard Miller hopes the University of Alabama in Huntsville will become the earthly home of science operations for a new platform of astrophysics research, in lunar orbit. That would be the satellite of the mission known as LOX, or Lunar Occultation Explorer. The project is now among proposals before NASA, contending for funding through its Medium-class Explorer (MIDEX) program. If the plan is selected, the LOX craft could be headed toward the moon in 2023, to survey supernovae like never before. The idea is to have the satellite orbiting the moon, outfitted with dozens of gamma ray sensors, relaying data about thermonuclear star explosions, to help us better understand these great shapers of the cosmos. Miller's particular technique of "lunar occultation" is to use eclipses of cosmic sources, by the moon itself, to gather its sort of “snapshots.” This process figures to benefit greatly from the relative lack of atmosphere and magnetic field. Miller's team includes researchers from UAH, eight other universities, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Their proposal was submitted to NASA late last year. A decision may be issued within the next few months.

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