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Updated: September 4, 2009 21:21 IST

Chandrayaan-1 confirms moon was once completely molten: Scientist

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This photograph, sent by Chandrayaan-1 on October 29, 2008, shows Australia?s southern coast. The picture was taken by the Terrain Mapping Camera aboard the spacecraft from a height of 70,000 km. Photo: ISRO
ISRO This photograph, sent by Chandrayaan-1 on October 29, 2008, shows Australia?s southern coast. The picture was taken by the Terrain Mapping Camera aboard the spacecraft from a height of 70,000 km. Photo: ISRO

Chandrayaan-1’s moon mineralogy mapper has confirmed the magma ocean hypothesis, meaning that the moon was once completely molten, a senior scientist said Wednesday.

“It proves beyond doubt the magma ocean hypothesis. There is no other way this massive rock type could be formed,” said Carle Pieters, science manager at the NASA-supported spectroscopy facility at Brown University in the U.S.

Ms. Pieters, who was in charge of the moon mineralogy mapper on Chandrayaan-1, was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Low Cost Planetary Mission Conference here.

Referring to the presence of anorthite, a calcium-rich iron-deficient layer on the upper crust of the lunar surface, she said this rose to the top as the moon eventually cooled down after a turbulent origin.

Ms. Pieters also said that the Chandrayaan-1 mission, which was abandoned after communication was lost with the satellite, had thrown up a couple of surprise findings, which included identification of a new rock type on the moon.

“All this new information helps us to understand better the history of the moon, which is already the model for all terrestrial planets,” the scientist pointed out.

“The evaluation of the moon gives us an indication and an opportunity to study the early evolution of the planets,” Ms. Pieters said, adding that missions like Chandrayaan-1 would set the foundation for future lunar research and assist in the possible exploitation of mineral resources on the moon in the future.

“Although it is still early days, we are interested in learning about the mineral resources on the moon, which we could utilize in the long term,” she said.

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