Scientists have just used a new technique to make a remarkable discovery in orbit around our own moon.
A new NASA radar technique has just found something astonishing circling the moon many miles away: a long-lost lunar probe launched by India that went missing eight years ago. Chandrayaan-1 is a very small spacecraft that is jut five feet on each size, half the size of a small car, and scientists were able to locate it with a remarkable new method using radar.
Interplanetary radar has been used before to spot tiny asteroids when they are still millions of miles from Earth, but researchers didn’t think an object of such a small size could find something on the moon even with a powerful radar. But the discovery of Chandrayaan-1 shows that that’s not the case.
Chandrayaan-1 is in polar orbit around the moon, always crossing above the lunar poles each time it orbited the moon, and scientists used this information to help spot it. The research team pointed the radar at a location about 100 miles above the north pole of the moon to see if it would cross the radar beam, and they successfully spotted it.
“However, with Chandrayaan-1, the radar team utilized the fact that this spacecraft is in polar orbit around the moon, so it would always cross above the lunar poles on each orbit,” the statement reads. “So, on July 2, 2016, the team pointed Goldstone and Green Bank at a location about 100 miles (160 kilometers) above the moon’s north pole and waited to see if the lost spacecraft crossed the radar beam. Chandrayaan-1 was predicted to complete one orbit around the moon every two hours and 8 minutes. Something that had a radar signature of a small spacecraft did cross the beam twice during four hours of observations, and the timings between detections matched the time it would take Chandrayaan-1 to complete one orbit and return to the same position above the moon’s pole.”