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Moon may be rusting, shows ISRO’s Chandrayaan 1 images

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

Moon may be rusting, shows ISRO’s Chandrayaan 1 images:


Context:

We know rusting exists on Earth and Mars, but now scientists have found that there is on the moon as well. The images sent by ISRO’s Chandrayaan 1 orbiter – India’s first mission to the moon, show that the moon may be rusting along the poles.

Why is this so surprising?

Rust, also known as iron oxide, is a reddish compound. It forms when the iron is exposed to water and oxygen. However, moon’s surface is not known for the presence of water and oxygen. Hence, this is surprising.

Possible reason behind this? What is the role of earth’s atmosphere in this phenomenon?

For iron to turn rusty red, it needs what’s called an oxidizer — a molecule such as oxygen that removes electrons from a material such as iron.

  • But, the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere of its own to provide sufficient amounts of oxygen, but it has trace amounts donated by Earth’s atmosphere. This terrestrial oxygen travels to the moon along an elongated extension of the planet’s magnetic field called a “magnetotail.”
  • At every full moon, the magnetotail blocks 99% of solar wind from blasting the moon, drawing a temporary curtain over the lunar surface, allowing periods of time for rust to form.

But, from where does the moon get water to form rust?

The moon is mostly devoid of water, save for frozen water found in lunar craters on the moon’s far side — far from where most of the hematite was found. But the researchers propose that fast-moving dust particles that bombard the moon might free water molecules locked into the moon’s surface layer, allowing the water to mix with the iron. These dust particles might even be carrying water molecules themselves, and their impact might create heat that could increase the oxidation rate.

Background:

  • Launched in 2008, Chandrayaan-1 is India’s first lunar probe.
  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 in August 2009.
  • Later, NASA scientists found Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which was considered lost, by using a new ground-based radar technique.

Key Findings of Chandrayaan-1:

  1. Confirmed presence of lunar water.
  2. Evidence of lunar caves formed by an ancient lunar lava flow.
  3. Past tectonic activity were found on the lunar surface.

chandrayaana

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. How Chandrayaan 2 was different from Chandrayaan 1?
  2. Lunar missions by various countries?
  3. Missions involving Soft landing on moon.
  4. Missions aimed at landing on Moon’s South Pole.
  5. About Chandrayaan 3.
  6. Minerals found in the surface of moon.

Mains Link:

Write a note on Chandrayaan 2 mission.

Sources: the Hindu.