Chandrayaan-1 probe discovered water on the moon.

ASTROCHEMISTRY: RELEVANCE OF CHEMISTRY IN THE STUDY OF COSMOS

By Nikhil Murgod

What is Astrochemistry and why is it important?

The study of chemical reactions and the study of abundance of molecules in the stars, planets, and also the universe. It uses most of the scientific techniques to study the presence and abundance of molecules in the universe, like spectroscopy which analyses the emission and absorption of light by matter from that it predicts the various properties of that matter.

Chemistry in space is called Astrochemistry.
Space Probes are sent to conduct spectroscopic measurements of the chemical content of astronomical objects.

What is the importance of Astrochemistry in the study of Astrophysics?

Before the most popular big bang event, the whole universe was a compact matter containing Hydrogen gas, due to high pressure and temperature of about millions of degrees Celsius explosion occurred and the universe came into existence.

Hence we can predict that the universe is made up of a large amount of hydrogen which is fused and converted to many elements like helium, carbon, nitrogen, and many more, then how do identify these molecules? This is only possible by chemical analysis.

Let us discuss only our solar system, Since we cannot explore Sun physically many observation probes have been sent to operate, among them first one was Pioneer 5 by NASA (March 1960) which analyzed the solar flare particles, and ionization in the interplanetary region, here the solar flare intensity was studied by X-ray fluxes.

Ionization is a phenomenon in which an atom or a molecule acquires a charge by losing or gaining electrons with other chemical changes this can be analyzed by the spectroscopic study of the light from the Sun.


How was the presence of water on the moon was confirmed by the Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission?

We know that Moon has water content on it, this was confirmed by the probe named Chandra’s Attitudinal Composition Explorer (CHACE) sent by ISRO in its Chandrayaan-1 on 18 September 2008, which recorded the evidence of water in 650 mass spectra readings.

On 24 September 2008 Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) a probe by NASA on Chandrayaan-1 detected absorption features near 2.8-3.0 µm on the surface of the Moon. Such features are typically attributed to hydroxyl or water-bearing materials.

According to European Space Agency scientists, with the support from their probe SARA(Sub KeV Atom Reflecting Analyser), the lunar dust grains absorbs hydrogen from solar winds and the interaction between hydrogen and oxygen present in dust grains is expected to produce hydroxyl ion and water.

Chandrayaan-1 probe discovered water on the moon.
The first Indian mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1 confirmed the presence of water on the moon in 2009. ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/Brown Univ./Source.

Many interplanetary probes analyzed the presence of certain molecules which are useful for survival. These all probes have used many chemical analysis techniques to study the presence of the molecules on the planets like Mercury, Venus, Mars, and many more. Cosmos is never-ending it continues to expand so we need to explore more and more about the mysteries around us again and again.


Nikhil Murgod is an Associate Research Scientist at Eurofins Advinus Discovery Services Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore, India. Send your feedback of the article to him at [email protected].


References

  • “Astrochemistry”. www.cfa.harvard.edu/. 2013-07-15. Archived from the original on 2016-11-20. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  •  “Pioneer 5, In Depth”. NASA. Retrieved 2019-01-03
  •  Crotts, Arlin (October 2011). “Water on The Moon, I. Historical Overview”. Astronomical Review. 6 (8): 4–20. arXiv:1205.5597. Bibcode:2011AstRv…6h…4C
  •  “Objectives”. ISRO. Archived from the original on 26 October 2008. Retrieved 22 October 2008.

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