Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lunar prospecting with Chandra

17.09.2003


Observations of the bright side of the Moon with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have detected oxygen, magnesium, aluminum and silicon over a large area of the lunar surface. The abundance and distribution of those elements will help to determine how the Moon was formed.


The Moon: Lunar prospecting with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory



“We see X-rays from these elements directly, independent of assumptions about the mineralogy and other complications,” said Jeremy Drake of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass, at a press conference at the “Four Years with Chandra” symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

"We have Moon samples from the six widely-space Apollo landing sites, but remote sensing with Chandra can cover a much wider area,” continued Drake. “It’s the next best thing to being there, and it’s very fast and cost-effective.”


The lunar X-rays are caused by fluorescence, a process similar to the way that light is produced in fluorescent lamps. Solar X-rays bombard the surface of the Moon, knock electrons out of the inner parts of the atoms, putting them in a highly unstable state. Almost immediately, other electrons rush to fill the gaps, and in the process convert their energy into the fluorescent X-rays seen by Chandra.

According to the currently popular “giant impact” theory for the formation of the Moon, a body about the size of Mars collided with the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. This impact flung molten debris from the mantle of both the Earth and the impactor into orbit around

-More-
the Earth. Over the course of tens of millions of years, the debris stuck together to form the Moon. By measuring the amounts of aluminum and other elements over a wide area of the Moon and comparing them to the Earth’s mantle, Drake and his colleagues plan to help test the giant impact hypothesis.

“One early result,” quipped Drake,“ is that there is no evidence for large amounts of calcium, so cheese is not a major constituent of the Moon.”

The same Chandra data have also solved a long-running mystery about X-rays from the dark side of the Moon, as reported by Brad Wargelin also of CfA. Wargelin discussed how data from the German Roentgen satellite (ROSAT) obtained in 1990 showed a clear X-ray signal from the dark side. These puzzling “dark-Moon X-rays” were tentatively ascribed to energetic electrons streaming away from the Sun and striking the lunar surface.

However, Chandra’s observations of the energies of individual X-rays, combined with simultaneous measurements of the number of particles flowing away from the Sun in the solar wind, indicate that the X-rays only appear to come from the Moon. In reality they come from much closer to home.

“Our results strongly indicate that the so-called dark Moon X-rays do not come from the dark side of the Moon,” said Wargelin. “The observed X-ray spectrum, the intensity of the X-rays, and the variation of the X-ray intensity with time, can all be explained by emission from Earth’s extended outer atmosphere, through which Chandra is moving.”

In the model cited by Wargelin and colleagues, collisions of heavy ions of carbon, oxygen and neon in the solar wind with atmospheric hydrogen atoms located tens of thousands of miles above the surface of Earth give rise to these X-rays. In the collisions, the solar ions capture electrons from hydrogen atoms. The solar ions then kick out X-rays as the captured electrons drop to lower energy states.

"This idea has been kicking around among a small circle of believers for several years supported by theory and a few pieces of evidence,” said Wargelin. “These new results should really clinch it."

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the Office of Space Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington. Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, Calif., formerly TRW, Inc., was the prime development contractor for the observatory. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Steve Roy | MSFC News Center
Further information:
http://www1.msfc.nasa.gov/NEWSROOM/news/releases/2003/03-160.html
http://chandra.nasa.gov
http://chandra.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New NASA study improves search for habitable worlds
20.10.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods
19.10.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>