chandrayaan-3 rover: Chandrayaan-3’s rover discovers minor elements, measures lunar plasma environment


What are lunar soil and rocks made of in the south polar region where Chandrayaan-3 landed? How is it different from other highland regions? These are the questions that the Chandrayaan-3 rover is trying to find answers to with its scientific instruments.

Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) onboard the rover, was deployed to observe the lunar sample, ISRO announced on Thursday. Later in the day it also announced that the first measurements of the lunar plasma environment over the South Pole region have been carried out.

APXS instrument is best suited for in-situ analysis of the elemental composition of soil and rocks on the surface of planetary bodies having little atmosphere, such as the Moon.

It carries radioactive sources that emit alpha particles and X-rays onto the surface sample. The atoms present in the sample in turn emit characteristic X-ray lines corresponding to the elements present.

By measuring the energies and intensities of these characteristic X-rays, researchers can find the elements present and their abundances.

APXS observations have discovered the presence of interesting minor elements, including sulphur, apart from the major expected elements such as aluminium, silicon, calcium, iron.

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“This finding by Chandrayaan-3 compels scientists to develop fresh explanations for the source of sulphur in the area: intrinsic, volcanic, or meteoritic?”, said ISRO in a post on X, formerly Twitter. The LIBS instrument on-board the Rover also confirmed the presence of sulphur on the lunar surface. Detailed scientific analysis of these observations are in progress, ISRO said.

APXS is developed by the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad with support from the Space Application Centre (SAC) Ahmedabad, whereas UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), Bengaluru has built the deployment mechanism.

Chandrayaan-3, India’s third lunar mission landed on the moon on August 23 and its mission life is 14 earth days.

Lunar plasma environment

First in-situ measurements of the surface-bound Lunar plasma environment over the south polar region have been carried out by the Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere – Langmuir Probe (RAMBHA-LP) payload onboard Chandrayaan-3 Lander, ISRO announced late on Thursday night.

“The initial assessment indicates that the plasma encompassing the lunar surface is relatively sparse, characterised by a number density ranging from approximately 5 to 30 million electrons per cubic metre,” said ISRO.

This evaluation specifically pertains to the early stages of the lunar daytime.

The Probe operates without interruption, aiming to explore the changes occurring in the near-surface plasma environment throughout the lunar day.

These ongoing observations hold significant implications for comprehending the process of charging within the lunar near-surface region, particularly in response to the fluctuations in solar space weather conditions.

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