Spectrometer Helps NASA Detect Water in Excavated Moon Matter
- Created: Monday, 01 February 2010
An Ocean Optics QE65000 spectrometer has contributed measurements to the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission, helping NASA scientists to officially confirm the presence of water on the Moon. The spectrometer, dubbed ALICE, was custom re-engineered by Aurora Design & Technology to withstand the extreme temperature, radiation, shock, and vibration of space.
In order to take a closer look at the Moon, the LCROSS shepherding spacecraft launched the Centaur upper rocket stage onto the floor of Cabeus, a permanently shadowed crater located near the lunar south pole. The rocket, traveling as fast as a speeding bullet, created a two-part plume of material: a high-angle plume of vapor and fine dust and a lower-angle ejecta curtain of heavier material. ALICE conducted measurements of the ejecta reflecting sunlight scattered off the crater walls. Amid limited light conditions, the signature of water was detected in near-infrared and ultraviolet spectroscopic measurements. NASA scientists estimated that roughly 220 pounds of water were found in the material excavated from the 20- to 30-meter wide crater formed by the impact.
The QE65000 covers a visible wavelength range of 270-650 nanometers with an optical resolution of less than 1.0 nm. Its ability to identify ionized water (visible at 619 nm), OH radicals (visible at 308 nm), and other organic molecules containing carbon allowed it to serve its purpose in the LCROSS mission.
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