London, September 26 : A sophisticated X-ray camera made by scientists and engineers from the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is set to launch into space on October 22nd aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft - India's first mission to the Moon.
The camera - C1XS - was designed and built at STFC Space Science and Technology Department in the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
It is an X-Ray Spectrometer that will measure X-rays to map the surface composition of the Moon which will help scientists to understand its origin and evolution, as well as quantifying the mineral resources that exist there.
C1XS was developed in conjunction with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
It employs new technology to make a compact, lightweight, sensitive instrument that can measure the abundances of chemical elements in the lunar surface, by detecting the X-rays they absorb and re-emit.
C1XS will work by looking at X-rays from the Sun, which have been absorbed by atoms in the lunar soil, then re-emitted in such a way as to reveal the chemistry of the surface.
The spectrometer is sensitive to magnesium, aluminium and silicon X-rays.
When the solar X-ray illumination is bright, for example during a solar flare, it may also be able to make measurements of other elements such as iron, titanium and calcium.
To make accurate measurements of the surface elements it is essential to measure the X-rays being produced by the Sun. C1XS has an additional detector system to measure these X-rays called the X-ray Solar Monitor (XSM), which is provided by the University of Helsinki Observatory, Finland.
Chandrayaan-1 is the first lunar mission from the Indian Space Research Organisation.
It is designed to orbit the Moon and carries radar and particle detectors as well as instruments that will make observations in the visible, near infrared and X-ray part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
According to Dr Ian Crawford from Birkbeck College, who chairs the C1XS Science Team, "There is still a lot we don't know about the Moon. Accurate maps of the surface composition will help us unravel its internal structure and geological history."
"Among other things, this will help us better understand the origin of the Earth-Moon system. We will also be able to learn more about what happened on the Moon since it formed and how and when it cooled. By peering into its craters, we may even be able to see below its crust to the material underneath," he added.