New Type of Moon Rocks Discovered

Scientists at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, have discovered a new type of moon rock thanks to the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument aboard the Indian Space Agency’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. The imaging spectrometer took the first high resolution pictures of the far side of the moon and constructed both spatial and spectral maps of the entire surface of the moon. Evidence of the new type of moon rock, believed to be a form of pink spinel, was found on the edge of the Moscoviense basin on the far side of the moon.
Infrared image of the
moon taken by the Moon
Mineralogy Mapper (Credit:NASA)

Chandrayaan-1 orbited the moon from November 8, 2008 to August 30, 2009 and included a variety of instruments to image the moon at different wavelengths. Managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper or M3 was active from December 17, 2008 until the end of the mission. In addition to this new type of moon rock, data from M3 was previously used to identify traces of water on the moon.

The new rock was identified by comparing spectral images from the moon with known spectrographs of minerals from Earth. The spectrograph from the moon had a large absorption band at 2 microns, matching that of magnesium-rich pink spinel closely. Scientists are fairly certain of this identification, but definitive proof can only come when actual samples are obtained from the far side of the moon. To date, no mission – manned or unmanned – has ever landed on the far side of the moon and no samples from the surface exist on Earth.
Principal Investigator Professor Carle Pieters of Brown and her fellow scientist plan to continue evaluating data from the M3 instrument through much of the rest of 2011. In addition to learning more about the mineral composition of the moon, the origins and evolution of the moon, and the geological events found on the moon, NASA and other space agencies may use the M3 data to identify optimum locations for future manned or unmanned landing sites.
TFOT has previously reported on a new method for creating water on the moon as discovered by another instrument about the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, the European Space Agency’s Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyzer (SARA) instrument. TFOT has also reported on evidence that water exists deep within the moon.
Read more about the Moon Mineralogy Mapper mission and the new type of moon rock at the NASA M3 mission page.

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