Mining the moon

10:24pm, October 18, 2005

With these composite visible-light and ultraviolet images of a 42-kilometer-wide crater called Aristarchus on the moon's near side, the Hubble Space Telescope is mapping the mineral ilmenite. Also known as iron titanium oxide, it could prove invaluable for generating oxygen for human exploration. The mineral's lunar abundance hasn't been well established.

The black-and-white image at left shows the shape of the crater. In the image at right, the scientists assigned colors to wavelengths of light or their ratios. They plan to compare Hubble images of the Apollo 15 and 17 landing sites, where ilmenite's abundance has been measured, with the Aristarchus images released this week. The team intends to identity the color that represents ilmenite and refine their estimates of its lunar abundance.

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