Scientists have just made an extraordinary discovery near the surface of the moon, finding something that had been lost long ago.
Scientists at NASA have just used a fascinating new radar technique to make a big discovery near the moon: they found a tiny probe launched by India that went missing eight years ago and is now endlessly circling the moon. Chandrayaan-1 is just five feet on each side and is half the size of a small car, but scientists were able to spot it circling the moon with a remarkable new radar method.
While scientists had used interplanetary radar to spot asteroid millions of miles from Earth, they didn’t think it could possibly spot something as small as Chandrayaan-1 near an object as far away as the moon. However, it turns out this radar technique is remarkably accurate.
They were able to track down Chandrayaan-1 because they knew it was in polar orbit around the moon, and was therefore always crossing above the lunar poles on every orbit. So the research team pointed to a location about 100 miles above the moon’s north pole, and were able to spot it crossing the beam of the radar.
“We have been able to detect NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [LRO] and the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in lunar orbit with ground-based radar,” said Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at JPL and principal investigator for the test project. “Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission’s navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located. Finding India’s Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August of 2009.”