Washington: Astronomers have created a detailed map of the Moon combining observations in visible and ultraviolet wavelengths that shows a treasure trove of areas rich in titanium ores.
Not only is titanium a valuable element, it is key to helping scientists unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s interior.
“Looking up at the Moon, its surface appears painted with shades of grey, at least to the human eye. But with the right instruments, the Moon can appear colourful,” said Mark Robinson, of Arizona State University.
“The maria appear reddish in some places and blue in others. Although subtle, these colour variations tell us important things about the chemistry and evolution of the lunar surface. They indicate the titanium and iron abundance, as well as the maturity of a lunar soil,” he stated.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Wide Angle Camera (WAC) is imaging the surface in seven different wavelengths at a resolution of between 100 and 400 meters per pixel.
Robinson’s team constructed a mosaic from around 4,000 LROC WAC images collected over one month.
Using the technique they had developed with the Hubble imagery, they used the WAC ratio of the brightness in the ultraviolet to visible light to deduce titanium abundance, backed up by surface samples gathered by Apollo and Luna missions.
The highest titanium abundances in similar kinds of rocks on Earth are around one percent or less.
The new map shows that in the maria, titanium abundances range from about one percent to a little more than ten percent.
In the highlands, everywhere titanium is less than one percent. The new titanium values match those measured in the ground samples to about one percent.
The finding will be presented at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.