Solar flares shine light on moon’s minerals

In its 10-month orbit around the moon, Chandrayaan-1’s X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS) has detected titanium, confirmed the presence of calcium, and gathered the most accurate measurements yet of magnesium, aluminium and iron on the lunar surface.

This was made possible by 30 solar flares that acted like “flash bulbs” illuminating the surface, according to a statement by the European Planetary Network. The results were presented on Friday by Manuel Grande, C1XS Principal Investigator, at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Germany.

‘Most accurate probe’

Previous lunar probes detected some of these minerals on the lunar surface, but none as accurately as the C1XS X-ray spectrometer, J.N. Goswami, director of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, and principal scientist for Chandrayaan-1, told The Hindu.

The miniature C1XS instrument investigated the lunar surface using an effect whereby X-ray illumination from the sun causes rocks to fluoresce, emitting light at a different wavelength. This re-emitted light contains spectral peaks that are characteristic of elements contained in the rock, revealing its composition.

While C1XS detected magnesium, aluminium and silicon during normal conditions, the instrument could detect calcium, iron, titanium, sodium and potassium in key areas in the southern hemisphere and on the far side of the Moon during the solar flares, the statement said. It added that the spectral resolution of 50 km was much better than previous missions.

“The C1XS team will be analysing the data collected during the Chandrayaan-1 mission over the next few months, and the results will help us further our knowledge of the Moon and planetary formation,” Prof. Grande was quoted as saying.

“We were able to separate clear peaks for each of the target elements, allowing us not only to identify where they are present but give an accurate estimate for how much is there,” he said.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 12:25:45 PM |

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