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Chang’e-5 samples suggest exploitable water resources on the moon

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BEIJING, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) — By studying lunar samples retrieved by the Chang’e-5 mission, Chinese scientists found that lunar soil grains retain more solar wind-implanted water at the middle latitude region than previously thought.

Based on this finding, the scientists predict that there is a large amount of water resources available for utilization at the high latitude region of the moon.

Scientists had previously discovered the presence of surficial water on the moon. They believed that solar wind implantation, volcanic outgassing, and asteroid/comet impacts are likely to be important sources of surficial water on the moon.

But how does water reach and remain on the moon? How much water is in the lunar soil? How is the water distributed spatially? A study of the lunar soil samples returned by China’s Chang’e-5 mission has shed new light on these questions.

In this diagram drawn on Nov. 23, 2022, hydrogen ions from the Sun are implanted into the lunar surface at a high speed and are preserved in the surface layer of lunar soil grains. (IGGCAS/Handout via Xinhua)

The research team, jointly led by scientists from the National Space Science Center (NSSC) and the Institute of Geology and Geophysics (IGG), both under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), published the new findings on Tuesday in the latest edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lin Yangting, a researcher at the IGG who led the study, explained that the water they refer to is not water in the usual sense, but the structural water found in soil grains. Since hydrogen is one of the main components of water, the hydrogen concentration is usually used to express the water content.

The research team selected 17 lunar soil grains, including olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase and glass, from Chang’e-5 samples and carried out experimental analysis of the hydrogen content and isotopes using a newly-developed profiling technique on a nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometer.

The scientists found that the average water content in the topmost 0.1-micron zone of the lunar grains is 0.7 weight percent, rather high for nonaqueous minerals. They then proved through the deuterium-hydrogen ratios that the water on the lunar surface was solely derived from the solar wind.

“The hydrogen ions emitted from the Sun reach at an average speed of 450 kilometers per second and they hit the surface of the lunar soil grains like bullets,” said Tian Hengci, the paper’s co-first author, an associate professor at the IGG.

Based on the analysis of heating experiments, the research team conducted the simulations on the preservation of hydrogen in lunar soils at different temperatures, and the results showed that the solar wind-originated water could be well preserved in the middle and high latitude regions of the lunar surface.

Previously, scientists were unable to use the returned samples to study the possible influence of latitude on water content on the lunar surface, since the lunar samples collected by the Apollo missions of the United States and the Luna missions of the Soviet Union were all from the low latitude areas of the moon.

China’s Chang’e-5 mission successfully retrieved 1,731 grams of lunar samples at the end of 2020. The probe landed at 43.06 degrees north latitude of the moon, higher than the latitudes of the landing sites of the Apollo and Luna missions. In addition, the crystallization age of the basalt in the Chang’e-5 landing area is about 2 billion years old, much younger than the sampling areas of the Apollo and Luna missions.

“The Chang’e-5 samples provided us with the opportunity to study the evolution of solar wind, and the implantation and migration of water on the lunar surface,” said Xu Yuchen, the co-first author of the paper from the NSSC.

The research team built a dynamic equilibrium model between hydrogen implantation by solar wind and diffusion loss by heating, based on the analysis results of the Chang’e-5 samples and the experimental data of the Apollo samples.

The model predicted that lunar grains in the high latitude region contain more solar wind-delivered water in their rims. The topmost 0.1-micron zone of the lunar grains could contain as much as 8.5 weight percent of water. And if the lunar soils are sorted by particle size, the water content in the particles less than 2 microns could reach 2 weight percent.

“This discovery is of great significance for the future utilization of water resources on the moon. China plans to build a scientific research station in the south polar region of the moon. Our research shows that the south polar region of the moon may have more water than previously thought. And it is relatively easy to exploit and use the water contained in the lunar soil through particle size sorting and heating,” said Lin.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Small unknown asteroid accidentally detected by Webb telescope

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European astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope have detected a previously unknown asteroid about the size of Rome’s Colosseum in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The asteroid measuring between 100 and 200 meters in length is suspected to be the smallest object observed to date using the telescope, the U.S. space agency NASA said Monday.

The European astronomers “serendipitously detected” the asteroid, NASA said in a statement, adding that more observations would be needed to better characterize its nature and properties.

“We – completely unexpectedly – detected a small asteroid,” said Thomas Muller, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany.

It was detected during calibration of the telescope’s Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), which operates in mid-infrared wavelengths.

“Webb’s incredible sensitivity made it possible to see this roughly 100-meter object at a distance of more than 100 million kilometers,” Muller said.

Webb, which has been operational since July, is mainly built to study the life cycle of stars. Another main research focus is on exoplanets, planets outside Earth’s solar system.

Webb was not designed to look for small objects such as the newly discovered asteroid, but Muller said its discovery “suggests that many new objects will be detected with this instrument.”

Source(s): AFP & CGTN

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U.S. and EU to launch first-of-its-kind AI agreement

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The U.S. and European Union on Friday announced an agreement to speed up and enhance the use of artificial intelligence to improve agriculture, healthcare, emergency response, climate forecasting and the electric grid.

A senior U.S. administration official, discussing the initiative shortly before the official announcement, called it the first sweeping AI agreement between the U.S. and Europe. Previously, agreements on the issue had been limited to specific areas such as enhancing privacy, the official said.

AI modeling, which refers to machine-learning algorithms that use data to make logical decisions, could be used to improve the speed and efficiency of government operations and services.

“The magic here is in building joint models (while) leaving data where it is,” the senior administration official said. “The U.S. data stays in the U.S. and European data stays there, but we can build a model that talks to the European and the U.S. data because the more data and the more diverse data, the better the model.”

The initiative will give governments greater access to more detailed and data-rich AI models, leading to more efficient emergency responses and electric grid management, and other benefits, the administration official said.

Pointing to the electric grid, the official said the U.S. collects data on how electricity is being used, where it is generated, and how to balance the grid’s load so that weather changes do not knock it offline.

Many European countries have similar data points they gather relating to their own grids, the official said. Under the new partnership all of that data would be harnessed into a common AI model that would produce better results for emergency managers, grid operators and others relying on AI to improve systems.

The partnership is currently between just the White House and the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-member European Union. The senior administration official said other countries will be invited to join in the coming months.

Source(s): CGTN

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China’s Deep Space Exploration Lab eyes top global talents

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China’s Deep Space Exploration Lab (DSEL) said Monday that it is inviting top global talents to apply for the 2023 Overseas Outstanding Young Talents Program, to promote the development of deep-space exploration.

According to the DSEL, the program, funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, aims to attract outstanding young scholars from overseas, who have made achievements in the natural sciences, engineering and technology, to come and work in China.

Applicants are invited to take part in research on aerospace science and technology, space science and technology, planetary science, physics, astronomy, nuclear science and technology, biology, chemistry and materials science, electronic information and technology, mechanical engineering, artificial intelligence and other fields related to deep-space exploration, said the DSEL.

Co-established by the China National Space Administration, Anhui Province, and the University of Science and Technology of China, the DSEL is headquartered in Hefei, the capital city of Anhui, and has a branch in Beijing. Since its establishment, the laboratory has conducted science and technology research focusing on major national projects in deep-space exploration.

The DSEL aims to promote the long-term development of deep-space exploration regarding the moon, planets, asteroids and the edge of the solar system.

Source(s): Xinhua & CGTN

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