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NASA Scientists Map Water on Moon Using India’s Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft!

Scientists now have a road-map to where water exists on the surface of the Moon!

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A jet plane flies across the moon seen from Beijing, China, Nov. 14, 2016. VOA
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New York, September 16, 2017 : Using newly-calibrated data taken from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have created the first global map of water in the Moon’s soil.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, builds on the initial discovery in 2009 of water and a related molecule – hydroxyl, which consists of one atom each of hydrogen and oxygen – in lunar soil.

“The signature of water is present nearly everywhere on the lunar surface, not limited to the polar regions as previously reported,” said the study’s lead author Shuai Li, who performed the work while a PhD student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, US.

“The amount of water increases toward the poles and does not show significant difference among distinct compositional terrains,” Li, now a postdoctoral researcher at University of Hawaii, added.

The water concentration reaches a maximum average of around 500 to 750 parts per million in the higher latitudes. That is not a lot – less than is found in the sands of Earth’s driest deserts – but it is also not nothing.

“This is a roadmap to where water exists on the surface of the Moon,” study co-author Ralph Milliken, Associate Professor at Brown University said.

“Now that we have these quantitative maps showing where the water is and in what amounts, we can start thinking about whether or not it could be worthwhile to extract, either as drinking water for astronauts or to produce fuel,” Milliken said.

The way the water is distributed across the Moon gives clues about its source, the researchers said.

The distribution is largely uniform rather than splotchy, with concentrations gradually decreasing toward the equator, the study said.

That pattern is consistent with implantation via solar wind – the constant bombardment of protons from the Sun, which can form hydroxyl and molecular water once emplaced.

Although the bulk of the water mapped in this study could be attributed to solar wind, there were exceptions.

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For example, the researchers found higher-than-average concentrations of water in lunar volcanic deposits near the Moon’s equator, where background water in the soil is scarce.

Rather than coming from solar wind, the water in those localised deposits likely comes from deep within the Moon’s mantle and erupted to the surface in lunar magma.

The study also found that the concentration of water changes over the course of the lunar day at latitudes lower than 60 degrees, going from wetter in the early morning and evening to nearly bone dry around lunar noon.

The fluctuation can be as much as 200 parts per million.

As useful as the new maps may be, they still leave plenty of unanswered questions about lunar water. (IANS)

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Hubble Returns To Normal Functioning Soon: NASA

After the engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated

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Hubble's backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. Flcikr

NASA has brought Hubble Space Telescope’s seven-year old backup gyroscope (gyro) back to life, after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro earlier this month, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

Hubble’s backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates, NASA said in a statement.

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The Hubble Telescope hovering in space. Wikimedia Commons

This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5.

Additional tests will be performed to ensure Hubble can return to science operations with this gyro, NASA said.

To correct high rotation rates, the Hubble team executed a running restart of the gyro on October 16.

This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down.

However, the data showed no improvement in the gyro’s performance.

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This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5. Flickr

The team, then on October 18, commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers, or turns, in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage that may have caused the float to be off-centre and produce the exceedingly high rates.

During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float.

They noticed a significant reduction in the high rates, allowing rates to be measured in low mode for brief periods of time.

On October 19, the team again commanded Hubble to perform additional maneuvers and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue.

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The planet Mars is shown May 12, 2016 in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view when it was 50 million miles from Earth. VOA

The rotation rates produced by the backup gyro have since reduced and are now within an expected range, NASA noted.

Also Read: New Gamma-Ray Collection Named After Hulk, Godzilla: NASA

The team plans to execute a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the gyro under conditions similar to those encountered during routine science observations, including moving to targets, locking on to a target, and performing precision pointing.

After these engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated. (IANS)