Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter Discovered Something New About the Distribution of Gas in the Moon’s Atmosphere
New observations about the distribution of an important gas in the moon’s upper atmosphere were made by an instrument onboard India’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter in 2017, which could provide new insights into the lunar environment.
According to a statement from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), 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 where it was previously known to exist.
“Argon-40 (Ar-40) is known to exist in the lunar exosphere, but there is little information about its distribution at higher latitudes. According to a study published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters based on this data, Chandra’s Atmospheric Composition Explorer-2 experiment aboard Chandrayaan-2 orbiter “has continuously observed Ar-40 in the latitude range of -60 to +60 degrees for the first time.”
“Based on the observed global distribution, Ar-40 interaction with the surface is similar in low and mid-latitude regions.” The CHACE-2 observations “indicate a need for further research into the surface-exosphere interactions and Ar-40 source distributions,” according to the study. The Chandrayaan-2 mission’s primary goal was to demonstrate ISRO’s ability to land softly on the moon. The mission included a lander and a rover that were to conduct a variety of experiments on the lunar surface. The lander, however, was unable to make a soft landing due to technical issues in the final moments before touchdown. Instead, it collided with the ground and was destroyed.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission’s Orbiter, on the other hand, was unaffected and continues to carry out its scientific experiments. The Orbiter has eight instruments on board, including CHACE-2, for various measurements. These instruments have been transmitting a slew of new data about the moon and its environs. The ISRO has prepared a Chandrayaan-3 mission to compensate for the failure to make a soft landing. It is scheduled to launch later this year.
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