The Pragyan rover of the Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan-3 has made the first in situ measurements of the elemental composition of the lunar surface near the south pole.
India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, with its Pragyan rover, has taken a significant leap in lunar exploration by making pioneering in situ measurements of the elemental composition at the moon’s south pole. This has led to a monumental discovery – the detection of sulfur, as confirmed through the sophisticated Laser-Induced Decay Spectroscopy (LIBS) tool. This is a revelation that earlier orbiting instruments couldn’t decipher, as highlighted in a recent announcement by the Indian space agency.
Why is this discovery significant?
Tracing back to prior scientific observations, sulfur detected in lunar volcanic rocks can be seen as an indication of iron sulfide nestled within the moon’s rocky core. This is suggestive of the locations where precious metals might have been deposited during the formation of lunar lavas on the moon’s terrestrial surfaces.
LIBS stands out as a quintessential scientific methodology that discerns the material composition via the emission of intense laser beams. The procedure involves concentrating high-energy laser pulses onto a specific material surface, like rock or soil. This induces a superheated, localized plasma state. The subsequent emission of light from this plasma is captured, spectrally processed, and detected with tools like charge-coupled devices.
Given that each chemical element radiates a distinct wavelength spectrum in its plasma form, the elemental composition of the test material gets ascertained. Preliminary graphical representations from the Chandrayaan-3’s measurements have unveiled the existence of several elements on the lunar terrain, including aluminum (Al), sulfur (S), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), chromium (Cr), and titanium (Ti).
Further investigations have also identified manganese (Mn), silicon (Si), and oxygen (O) in the samples. There’s an ongoing, detailed analysis targeting the detection of hydrogen. The genius behind the LIBS tool? It was meticulously crafted at the Laboratory of Electro-Optical Systems (LEOS).
The Chandrayaan-3 mission, through its Pragyan rover, has not only strengthened India’s footprint in space exploration but has also unearthed significant details about our closest celestial neighbor. The discovery of sulfur and other elements on the moon’s south pole paves the way for more profound insights into the moon’s formation and its elemental abundance.
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