Water molecules and hydroxyl found on moon, confirms Chandrayaan-2
In what can be called a pathbreaking discovery, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) homegrown instrument aboard Chandrayaan-2 has detected the unambiguous presence of hydroxyl and water molecules on the Moon with the precision of differentiating between the two.
Researchers used the data obtained by the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter's imaging infrared spectrometer (IIRS), an instrument that collects information from the Moon's electromagnetic spectrum, to understand the mineral composition of the satellite. They analysed data from three strips on the Chandrayaan-2 IIRS sensor for hydration, which led to "unambiguous detection of OH (hydroxyl) and H2O (water) signatures."
Hailed as critical for future planetary exploration
IIIRS was developed by Ahmedabad-based unit of Space Applications Centre (SAC) of ISRO. The discovery is being hailed as critical for future planetary exploration and resource utilisation.
It was also observed from the data that the brighter sunlit highland regions at higher latitudes of the Moon were found to have higher hydroxyl or possibly water molecules. Scientists at the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) in Dehradun opine that the formation of hydroxyl and water on the Moon is due to space weathering, a process of interaction of solar winds with the lunar surface. This combined with impact events lead to chemical changes that further triggered the formation of reactive hydroxyl molecules.
"The proper interpretation of hydration feature through spectral analysis is significant as it provides important inputs regarding the geology and geophysics of the mantle in terms of their mineralogy, chemical composition, rheology and solarwind interaction," the researchers said in their paper.
Stability depends on surface, temperature
The stability of these hydration features depends upon how they interact with one another, with the surface and their environment at a particular temperature range and therefore provides important clues about their origin and evolution.
Several countries including India are in the process of returning to the Moon with new probes and tools to harness rare-Earth minerals that are likely present on the natural satellite. The Chandrayaan-2 mission was launched in 2019 to explore the far side of the Moon, however, the rover part of the mission ended when it crash-landed on the surface.
ISRO set to launch Chandrayaan-3
While the lander and rover did not survive the crash, the orbiter is still hovering above the Moon, leading to path-breaking new discoveries. ISRO is set to launch Chandrayaan-3 a successor to the second mission likely in the next year.
While ISRO has been known for discovering water on the moon with Chandrayaan-1, the new findings were done by a team of scientists from IIRS Dehradun that included Prakash Chauhan, Mamta Chauhan, Prabhakar Verma and Supriya Sharma, along with Satadru Bhattacharya, Aditya Kumar Dagar, Amitabh, Abhishek N. Patil, Ajay Kumar Parashar, Ankush Kumar, Nilesh Desai from Space Applications Centre and Ritu Karidhal from URRSC Bengaluru and AS Kiran Kumar from ISRO.