CHANDRA Looks at the moon
Credit: Optical: Robert Gendler; X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/J.Drake et al.

See You On the Bright Side of the Moon

One of the first uses of X-ray observatories was to try to determine the lunar composition by determining how X-rays from the sun react with atoms of different elements on the moon's surface. More than forty years later, astronomers are still at it. The image above left is the familiar optical image of the moon showing the terminator separating the light side from the dark. On the right is a new image of the moon in X-rays taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. On the moon's light side, Chandra shows lots of X-rays, produced by individual groups of atoms, allowing astronomers to determine the composition of the moon over a wide area. Such studies can be used to help constrain models of the moon's origin. On the dark side, Chandra also detects X-rays though at a much fainter level. A similar observation by ROSAT puzzled astronomers, but Chandra shows that the "unusual" emission from the dark side are an illusion produced by the interaction of the solar wind with the spacecraft.

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:26:05 EDT