Friday, October 7, 2011

New map of lunar titanium and Iron presented

The above image accompanying many reports of the LROC titanium and iron survey is everywhere being misidentified as showing the boundary area between Mare Serenitatis and Tranquillitatis. It's not clear why Figures 1 - 4 listed along with the official conference news posting were apparently not released at the news conference reported below. The image above may be a part of a larger global mosaic and looks suspiciously like early WAC color test articles released by LROC more than a year ago. Regardless, the area shown in the image above is interesting enough but shows an area mostly south of the equator and southwest of Copernicus on the Moon's nearside.

Map showing concentration of iron and titanium in Nearside maria. Iron and titanium are part of the mineral ilmenite (FeTiO3 ), which has the ability to capture and retain gases, such as hydrogen and helium, from the solar wind. An isotope of helium, helium-3, can be found in ilmenite and is especially valuable for nuclear power production [NASA/USGS/Community College of Baltimore County].
Paris (AFP) — A new map of the Moon has revealed an abundance of titanium ore that is up to 10 times richer than on Earth, a finding that could one day lead to a lunar mining colony, astronomers said on Friday.

The discovery was made thanks to a camera aboard the US Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which swept the surface of the Moon, scrutinizing it in seven different light wavelengths.

Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, who presented the research at a conference in Nantes, western France with Brett Denevi of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, sifted through the data for telltale jumps in the ratio of ultra-violet to visible light.

NASA/USGS/Community College of Baltimore County
They established this signature thanks to rock samples brought back to Earth by Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972 and images of the area around the mission's landing site by the Hubble space telescope.

"Looking up at the Moon, its surface appears painted with shades of grey, at least to the human eye," explained Robinson.

"But with the right instruments, the Moon can appear colorful.

"The maria [lunar plains] appear reddish in some places and blue in others.

"Although subtle, these color 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."

Titanium is as strong as steel but nearly half as light, which makes it a highly desired -- and also very expensive -- metal.

On Earth, titanium is found, at the very most, in around one percent of similar types of ore. But the new map found abundances in the lunar maria that range from about one percent to 10 percent, the conference organizers said in a press release. In the lunar highlands, abundance was around one percent.

The meeting gathers, for the first time, members of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences.

The find offers a double potential bounty, they said.

"Lunar titanium is mostly found in the mineral ilmenite, a compound containing iron, titanium and oxygen," they said.

"Future miners living and working on the Moon could break down ilmenite to liberate these elements.

"In addition, Apollo data shows that titanium-rich minerals are more efficient at retaining particles from the solar wind, such as helium and hydrogen. These gases would also provide a vital resource for future human inhabitants of lunar colonies."

The exposed upper 3 centimeters surface of the Moon is turned over, or "gardened" at least once every 2 million years. The visible surface has been estimated to reach "optical maturity," or "OMAT," over the course of 900 million years. Direct and remote examination has confirmed that the Moon's deeper topography retains a high-fidelity record of it's stormy 4.74 billion year history, recording the history of the Solar System and Earth while a continuous make over by solar radiation and heavier elements implanted by cosmic ray bombardment. The abundance of Helium-3 and Helium 4 is thought to be related to the abundance of iron and titanium. From: "Global inventory of Helium-3 in lunar regoliths estimated by a multi-channel microwave radiometer on Chang'E-1," WenZhe Fa and Yaqiu Jin (2010), Chinese Science Bulletin, Vol. 55, No. 35 [Maurice Collins].

No comments: