An equipment onboard India’s 2017 Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has made new observations about the distribution of an important gas in the moon’s upper atmosphere, which can offer new insights into the lunar surroundings.
New data from Chandra’s Atmospheric Composition Explorer-2 (CHACE-2) mass spectrometer on Chandrayaan-2 show the distribution of Argon-40 gas in the lunar ‘exosphere’, beyond the areas this was known to exist, a statement from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
“Though, Argon-40 (Ar-40) is known to exist in the lunar exosphere, the knowledge on its distribution at higher latitudes is lacking. For the first time, Chandra’s Atmospheric Composition Explorer-2 experiment aboard Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has continuously observed Ar-40 in latitude range of -60 to +60 degrees,” according to the study published in the scientific journal, Geophysical Research Letters, based on this data.
“The observed global distribution indicates that the interaction of Ar-40 with the surface is similar in low and mid latitude regions. The CHACE-2 observations hint at a requirement for improvement in our understanding of the surface-exosphere interactions and source distributions of Ar-40,” the study said.
The main objective of Chandrayaan-2 mission was to demonstrate ISRO’s capability to make a soft landing on the moon. The mission had a lander and a rover component that were supposed to carry out a number of experiments on the lunar surface. However, due to technical glitches in the final moments ahead of the touchdown, the lander was unable to make a soft landing. Instead, it crash-landed and got destroyed.
The Orbiter part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, however, was unaffected, and is continuing to carry out its scientific experiments. The Orbiter is carrying eight instruments, including CHACE-2, for different kinds of measurements. These instruments have been sending a wealth of new information about the moon and its surroundings.
To compensate for the failure of making a soft landing, the ISRO has prepared a Chandrayaan-3 mission that is scheduled to be launched later this year.