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Water found on moon
Published on 25 Sep. 2009 1:26 AM IST
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In a discovery hailed as path-breaking, India’s maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan has found evidence of water on the moon. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) late Thursday confirmed that Chandrayaan-1 has detected presence of water on the moon. “Excellent quality data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had clearly indicated the presence of water molecules on the lunar surface extending from lunar poles to about 60 degrees latitude,” ISRO said in a statement on its website. Earlier in the day, M3 principal investigator Carle Pieters in a paper published in Science Express, Sep 24 edition said that Chandrayaan-1 found evidence of water on the lunar surface. M3 was one of the 11 scientific instruments onboard Chandrayaan that ISRO launched Oct 22, 2008, but the moon mission had to be aborted Aug 30 after Chandrayan lost radio contact with the earth. Acknowledging that analysis of the data from M3 had led to a path-breaking finding, ISRO quoted from the paper that hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, was also found in the lunar soil. “The confirmation of water molecules and hydroxyl molecules on the moon’s polar regions raises new questions about its origin and its effect on the mineralogy of the moon,” the space agency pointed out. The findings from M3 show a marked signature in the infrared region of 2.7-3.2 micron in the absorption spectrum, which provided a clear indication of the presence of hydroxyl and water molecules. The analysis of the huge volume of M3 data was carried out by a joint team of scientists from the US and India. The scientific team was led by Pieters, a planetary geologist at Brown University in Rhode Island, and J.N. Goswami, principal scientist of Chandrayaan-1 from Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) of the Indian Department of Space. The team had concluded that there were traces of hydroxyl (OH) and water (H2O) molecules on the surface of the moon closer to the polar region. The experts also concluded that traces of OH and H20 were in the form of a thin layer embedded in rocks and chemical compounds on the surface of the moon and the quantity were extremely small - of the order of about 700 parts per million (ppm). “These molecules could have come from the impact of comets or radiation from the sun. But most probable source could be low energy hydrogen carried by solar wind impacting on the minerals on lunar surface. This in turn forms OH or H2O molecules by deriving the oxygen from metal oxide,” the statement explained. With these findings, the team revisited the data from NASA’s Deep Impact Mission of 2005, which carried an instrument similar to M3. The Deep Impact Probe observed the moon for a week June 2-9, 2009.

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