Israel’s First Moon Mission Might Unravel The Mystery Of Magnetic Lunar Rocks

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After SpaceIL and IAI spent eight years and about $100 million for building and preparing Israel’s first Moon mission, the so-called Beresheet lunar lander is one week away from its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Not only that Beresheet is the first private mission to land on Earth’s satellite, but it could also be the first to unravel the mystery of magnetic lunar rocks.

The mission would be headed by the so-called SpaceIL International Science Team which contains scientists from Israel, France, and the United States. The researchers already place some instruments on Beresheet, and they hope to unpuzzle one of the biggest enigmas of the Moon – the magnetic lunar rocks. The Apollo astronauts brought to Earth several samples of lunar soil and rocks which turned out to be magnetic, even though the Moon’s inner core is not generating any magnetic fields.

“On Earth, the rocks are magnetized from the global magnetic field, but how and when did the lunar rocks get magnetized? If we can measure the magnetism of these rocks, we can begin to understand how and when this magnetism arose,” said Oded Aharonson of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department.

Israel’s First Moon Mission Might Unravel The Mystery Of Magnetic Lunar Rocks

Until now, the scientists came up with some theories to explain why magnetic lunar rocks exist. One hypothesis says that repeated asteroid impact on the Moon created a temporary magnetic “dynamo,” strong enough to magnetize lunar rocks. Another theory states that the Moon’s inner core once had produced magnetic fields, but it “cooled down” over time.

“As we find younger and younger rocks – say 2 billion years old instead of 3 billion years old — that still have a magnetic signature, then we conclude the dynamo must have been alive for longer than previously hypothesized. We’re motivated by this basic science question, to help us understand the universe around us,” added Aharonson. For that purpose, researchers installed a sensor onto Beresheet, which would measure the lunar magnetic field.

As for where Beresheet would land, “we’ve had a lot of experience studying the surface of the Moon including its topography and temperatures, so we synthesized all this information and narrowed it down to a dozen candidate landing sites without a lot of rocks and slopes, from which we selected the primary site to aim for,” Aharonson explained.


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