Chinese lander instrument detects negative ions on the far side of the moon


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In just over 48 hours, China’s Chang’e-6 moon landed on the far side of the moon, successfully collected samples and started over.

It was an extraordinary feat, representing the very first samples ever collected from the side of the moon that permanently faces away from us.

During its brief visit, the lander also delivered several scientific payloads to the moon, including the European Space Agency’s Negative Ions at the Lunar Surface (NILS) instrument.

And the device spared no time, springing into action and immediately detecting the presence of negative ions, the result of the solar wind hitting the moon’s surface.

“This was ESA’s first activity on the surface of the moon, a world first in science and a first lunar collaboration with China,” said Neil Melville, ESA technical officer for the experiment. rack. “We have collected a quantity and quality of data that far exceeds our expectations.”

Ion girl

These ions are created when charged particles from the sun pelt the moon’s surface, causing particles there to react and become negatively charged. Here on Earth, the planet’s magnetic field prevents these particles from ever reaching the surface.

But because the moon has no magnetic field, its surface is extremely vulnerable to these charged particles. However, unlike positively charged particles, they never return to orbit, forcing scientists to study them on the surface.

Before making its observations, the NILS instrument went through cycles of restarts and blackouts as it adapted to the extreme conditions on the moon’s surface.

Fortunately, it prevailed and useful data was returned. The observations could have significant implications for our understanding of what is happening in other places in our celestial environment that are also not protected by a magnetic field.

“These observations on the moon will help us better understand the surface environment and act as a precursor to investigating negative ion populations in other airless bodies in the solar system,” NILS principal investigator Martin Wieser explains in the statement, “from planets to asteroids and other moons.”

More about the mission: China is planting the first ever national flag on the far side of the moon

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