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Space exploration finds ‘sodium content’ throughout the moon surface

Published: 14th Oct, 2022


Recently, the Scientists from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have mapped out the global distribution of sodium on the Moon’s surface.


  • The research has been done using CLASS instrument carried by the second Indian Moon mission, Chandrayaan-2.
  • It uses a large area soft X-ray spectrometer.
  • This is the first effort to provide a global-scale measurement of sodium on the lunar surface using X-ray fluorescent

Characteristics of Sodium:

  • Sodium is a soft metal that tarnishes within seconds of being exposed to the air.
  • It also reacts vigorously with water.
  • Sodium is used as a heat exchanger in some nuclear reactors, and as a reagent in the chemicals industry.
  • It has a low melting point, with a relative density of 0.97 at 20ºC (68ºF).
  • From the commercial point of view, sodium is the most important of all the alkaline metals.

New Findings:

  • The study found a thin veneer of sodium atoms that are weakly bound to the lunar surface apart from the minor quantities found in lunar rocks.
  • These sodium atoms on the surface are liberated when enough energy is given to them by solar ultraviolet radiation and solar wind ions. 
  • Sodium is the only element apart from potassium that can be observed through telescopes in the lunar atmosphere (its exosphere).
  • This new map of sodium would enable understanding of the surface-exosphere

X-ray fluorescent spectra:

  • X-ray fluorescence is commonly used to study the composition of materials in a non-destructive manner.
  • When the sun gives out solar flares, a large amount of X-ray radiation falls on the moon, triggering X-ray fluorescence.
  • The CLASS measures the energy of the X-ray photons coming from the moon and counts the total number.
  • The energy of the photons indicates the atom (for instance, sodium atoms emit X-ray photons of 1.04 keV) and the intensity is a measure of how many atoms are present.

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