Monday, September 28, 2009

ISRO found water on moon 10 months ago

BANGALORE: Indian Space Research Organisation may have stolen the thunder of discovering water on the
Moon.

The Moon Impact Probe on Chandrayaan-I appears to have sensed water earlier than Nasa's Moon Minerolgy Mapper (M3) but protocol did not allow ISRO to declare the discovery. While MIP detected water molecules on November 14, 2008, just 22 days after Chandrayaan-1's launch, M3 did so in March 2009.

J S Goswami, principal investigator for Chandrayaan-1, told TOI: ``We had indications of water on November 14, the day MIP crash-landed on the Moon. It sensed some sort of water molecules. We were absolutely delighted but it had to be corroborated. Without international examination and cross-examination and confirmation of the evidence, it would not have been right on our part to go public about it.''

Mylswami Annadurai, project director, Chandrayaan-1 and 2, explained why India did not go public with the discovery. ``International protocol requires us to discuss the evidence, cross-calibrate it with experts and it goes through a peer review and gets their approval. After all this, if it's a credible finding comes the go-ahead for its publication. This process can take three to four months, sometimes even seven. Only after publication can we speak about the evidence.''

ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said the MIP showed indications as it was crash-landing - it caught signatures of water. ``As the MIP was landing, it took some pictures that indicated the water molecules eventually found by M3.''

The MIP had picked up strong signals of water particles towards the polar region from 70 degree latitude to 80 degree latitude, according to Goswami. While this was known in November 2008, the M3 discovery of water in March 2009 was confirmed only three months later ^ in June. That's because US scientists wanted to be sure they had indeed found water and it took three months of rigorous cross-examination to confirm it. Publication after the confirmation also took time.

Officials said India scientists waited all this while to make the discovery public as they wanted the findings of such global significance to be first published in a scientific journal.

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