Chandrayaan-1 found water on the moon's equator

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Scientists had another eureka moment as water was found on the moon's equator. New analysis of data from the moon mineralogy mapper ( M3) on board Chandrayaan- 1 shows water on the moon is not limited to its polar regions but extends to the equator.

" The new map shows water and hydroxyl ions detected by M3 is more extensive," US geologist Roger Clark and colleagues said at the ongoing 41st lunar and planetary science conference at Woodlands near Houston. Last September, NASA and ISRO scientists had announced the discovery of water molecules in the polar regions of the moon. M3 had also revealed hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, in the lunar soil.

Data from instruments on board two NASA spacecraft, Cassini and Deep Impact , had also shown the presence of water and hydroxyl trapped or absorbed in the minerals on the lunar surface. It corroborated the initial M3 find. However, there was a problem. While the other spacecraft indicated the presence of water closer to the equator, the M3 data failed to show that. Scientists said the main reason for the mismatch was conservative processing of the M3 data.

Scientists also found that M3 had not completely covered certain wavelengths that denote the presence of water. So, they constructed a new map on the basis of finer data and it now confirms what Cassini and Deep Impact had indicated there is water close to the equator of the moon too.

Clark, who works with the US geological survey, is part of the team that analysed data from visual and infrared mapping spectrometer on board Cassini which had had a flyby of the moon in 1999 as well as M3.

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft, en route to the comet Hartley 2, had also observed the moon for calibration. In June last year, it took detailed measurements of light from the north polar regions of the moon. Data from these two experiments had confirmed M3 findings last September.

However, the water found by M3 in the lit areas of the moon was not much. As much as 1,000 water molecule parts per million could be in the lunar soil. That means if you harvested one tonne of the top layer of the moon's surface, you could get as much as 32 ounces ( 946 ml) of water.

But what mini- synthetic aperture radar ( SAR) on board Chandrayaan- 1 found inside the lunar craters on the dark side of the moon was two metres of thick layers of ice, potentially yielding millions of tonnes of water, as NASA claimed. The tonnage, however, was not published in a journal article.

An ISRO spokesperson said the space agency would comment on the new equatorial water find only after Prof J. N. Goswami, the principal scientist of Chandrayaan- 1 , returns from the Houston conference later this week.

Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2010. MTNPL. All rights reserved. (source: yahoo)

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