Staff Reporter

Presence of aluminium, magnesium and silicon revealed

BANGALORE: Chandrayaan-I has picked up first X-ray signals from the Moon, revealing the presence of three elements.

The Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (CIXS), one of the 11 payloads onboard Chandrayaan-1, has received X-ray “signatures” of aluminium, magnesium and silicon — three of the six elements it has been designed to detect, the others being titanium, iron and calcium, said an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) spokesperson.

CIXS detected the X-ray signals on December 12, 2008 from a region close to the Apollo landing sites.

It has collected three minutes of data from the Moon during a solar flare that caused fluorescence. “When the X-rays that the Sun emits hit the Moon’s surface, the lunar surface responds similarly by emitting low energy X-rays. This phenomenon is called X-ray fluorescence,” the spokesperson said. Each element emitted “characteristic” X-rays, which could be considered their “fingerprints.”

‘Major achievement’

CIXS was jointly developed by ISRO and United Kingdom’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL).

ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said the joint development and operationalisation of CIXS by ISRO and RAL was “a major achievement” and that the first signatures obtained were “highly encouraging.”

Chandrayaan-1, launched from Sriharikota on October 22, 2008, is now orbiting the Moon at an altitude of 100 km. The instruments onboard include radar and particle detectors as well as instruments that will make observations in the visible, near infrared and soft and hard X-rays.