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10th October 2022 (8 Topics)

The New Space exploration finds sodium content throughout the moon surface


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


About the Exploration

  • 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

Do you know?

  • When compared to Earth, the moon is significantly depleted of volatile elements such as sodium.
  • The amount of volatiles on the moon today can be used to test formation scenarios of the Earth-Moon system.
  • Sodium can be used as a tracer of the volatile history of the moon.

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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