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X-ray studies of planetary surfaces

X-ray studies of planetary surfaces

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Published by Y. Dutt
Our solar system is believed to be nearly 4.6 billion years old. Soon after the formation of the Sun, the residual gas and dust that surrounded the early Sun, slowly cooled and gravitationally settled to form other large bodies in the solar system. These include the current eight planets with their satellites, minor planets, asteroids and comets. As the material in the solar system cooled, metal-rich rocky bodies formed in the inner solar system (as they have high melting points) while the outer solar system produced gas-rich, metal-poor giant planets.

Exploration of the solar system initiated by the early Pioneer and Voyager series of spacecrafts began as flybys, maturing to orbiting missions such as the Luna, Apollo, , Viking, Venera, Galileo, Magellan, Clementine, Cassini, SMART-1, etc. They provided initial global data on solar system bodies. These steps were most critical to sustain the effort to understand the origin, composition and evolution of solar system bodies. Remote sensing of planetary bodies were carried out using sensors across the full electromagnetic spectrum as well as particle detectors (charged and neutral) and electric and magnetic field sensors for detailed studies of plasma in the interplanetary medium. These have immensely increased our understanding of these bodies and at the same time generated new questions. Here we shall concentrate on the specific role of X-ray observations to study planetary chemistry.
How do we know the chemistry from X-rays?

A few decades after the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Rontgen, it was shown by Moseley in 1913 that when pure substances are irradiated with a beam of X-rays from an X-ray tube, they produce new X-ray photons with an energy, characteristic of the substance. With the nearly simultaneous developments in the quantum theory of the atom, it became clear that these characteristic X-ray lines arise as follows. When an X-ray photon hits an atom, it may either be absorbed or scattered by it. If the energy of the incident photon is greater than the binding energy of an atomic shell, an electron will be ejected (called photoelectron). This process is called photoelectric effect and the energy of the photoelectron will be equal to the difference between the incident photon energy and the binding energy of the respective shell. The vacancy is then filled by an electron in a higher shell. This electron transition results in the emission of an X-ray photon (X-ray fluorescence - XRF) of energy characteristic to the atom. This X-ray photon will have an energy equal to the difference in energy between the two shells. Since the atomic energy levels of each element in the periodic table are distinct, the fluorescent X-ray emission from atoms can be used to directly identify the presence of the element. This forms the basis for remotely sensing the chemistry of planetary surfaces.
How do we know the chemistry from X-rays?

A few decades after the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Rontgen, it was shown by Moseley in 1913 that when pure substances are irradiated with a beam of X-rays from an X-ray tube, they produce new X-ray photons with an energy, characteristic of the substance. With the nearly simultaneous developments in the quantum theory of the atom, it became clear that these characteristic X-ray lines arise as follows. When an X-ray photon hits an atom, it may either be absorbed or scattered by it. If the energy of the incident photon is greater than the binding energy of an atomic shell, an electron will be ejected (called photoelectron). This process is called photoelectric effect and the energy of the photoelectron will be equal to the difference between the incident photon energy and the binding energy of the respective shell. The vacancy is then filled by an electron in a higher shell. This electron transition results in the emission of an X-ray photon (X-ray fluorescence - XRF) of energy characteristic to the atom. This X-ray photon will have an energ
Our solar system is believed to be nearly 4.6 billion years old. Soon after the formation of the Sun, the residual gas and dust that surrounded the early Sun, slowly cooled and gravitationally settled to form other large bodies in the solar system. These include the current eight planets with their satellites, minor planets, asteroids and comets. As the material in the solar system cooled, metal-rich rocky bodies formed in the inner solar system (as they have high melting points) while the outer solar system produced gas-rich, metal-poor giant planets.

Exploration of the solar system initiated by the early Pioneer and Voyager series of spacecrafts began as flybys, maturing to orbiting missions such as the Luna, Apollo, , Viking, Venera, Galileo, Magellan, Clementine, Cassini, SMART-1, etc. They provided initial global data on solar system bodies. These steps were most critical to sustain the effort to understand the origin, composition and evolution of solar system bodies. Remote sensing of planetary bodies were carried out using sensors across the full electromagnetic spectrum as well as particle detectors (charged and neutral) and electric and magnetic field sensors for detailed studies of plasma in the interplanetary medium. These have immensely increased our understanding of these bodies and at the same time generated new questions. Here we shall concentrate on the specific role of X-ray observations to study planetary chemistry.
How do we know the chemistry from X-rays?

A few decades after the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Rontgen, it was shown by Moseley in 1913 that when pure substances are irradiated with a beam of X-rays from an X-ray tube, they produce new X-ray photons with an energy, characteristic of the substance. With the nearly simultaneous developments in the quantum theory of the atom, it became clear that these characteristic X-ray lines arise as follows. When an X-ray photon hits an atom, it may either be absorbed or scattered by it. If the energy of the incident photon is greater than the binding energy of an atomic shell, an electron will be ejected (called photoelectron). This process is called photoelectric effect and the energy of the photoelectron will be equal to the difference between the incident photon energy and the binding energy of the respective shell. The vacancy is then filled by an electron in a higher shell. This electron transition results in the emission of an X-ray photon (X-ray fluorescence - XRF) of energy characteristic to the atom. This X-ray photon will have an energy equal to the difference in energy between the two shells. Since the atomic energy levels of each element in the periodic table are distinct, the fluorescent X-ray emission from atoms can be used to directly identify the presence of the element. This forms the basis for remotely sensing the chemistry of planetary surfaces.
How do we know the chemistry from X-rays?

A few decades after the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Rontgen, it was shown by Moseley in 1913 that when pure substances are irradiated with a beam of X-rays from an X-ray tube, they produce new X-ray photons with an energy, characteristic of the substance. With the nearly simultaneous developments in the quantum theory of the atom, it became clear that these characteristic X-ray lines arise as follows. When an X-ray photon hits an atom, it may either be absorbed or scattered by it. If the energy of the incident photon is greater than the binding energy of an atomic shell, an electron will be ejected (called photoelectron). This process is called photoelectric effect and the energy of the photoelectron will be equal to the difference between the incident photon energy and the binding energy of the respective shell. The vacancy is then filled by an electron in a higher shell. This electron transition results in the emission of an X-ray photon (X-ray fluorescence - XRF) of energy characteristic to the atom. This X-ray photon will have an energ

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Published by: Y. Dutt on Dec 08, 2010
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X-ray studies of planetary surfaces
Introduction:
Our solar system is believed to be nearly 4.6 billion years old. Soon after the formation of the Sun, the residual gas and dust that surrounded the early Sun, slowly cooled andgravitationally settled to form other large bodies in the solar system. These include thecurrent eight planets with their satellites, minor planets, asteroids and comets. As thematerial in the solar system cooled, metal-rich rocky bodies formed in the inner solar system (as they have high melting points) while the outer solar system produced gas-rich,metal-poor giant planets.Exploration of the solar system initiated by the early Pioneer and Voyager series of spacecrafts began as flybys, maturing to orbiting missions such as the Luna, Apollo, ,Viking, Venera, Galileo, Magellan, Clementine, Cassini, SMART-1, etc. They providedinitial global data on solar system bodies. These steps were most critical to sustain theeffort to understand the origin, composition and evolution of solar system bodies. Remotesensing of planetary bodies were carried out using sensors across the full electromagneticspectrum as well as particle detectors (charged and neutral) and electric and magneticfield sensors for detailed studies of plasma in the interplanetary medium. These haveimmensely increased our understanding of these bodies and at the same time generatednew questions. Here we shall concentrate on the specific role of X-ray observations tostudy planetary chemistry.
How do we know the chemistry from X-rays?
A few decades after the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Rontgen, it was shown byMoseley in 1913 that when pure substances are irradiated with a beam of X-rays from anX-ray tube, they produce new X-ray photons with an energy, characteristic of thesubstance. With the nearly simultaneous developments in the quantum theory of theatom, it became clear that these characteristic X-ray lines arise as follows. When an X-ray photon hits an atom, it may either be absorbed or scattered by it. If the energy of theincident photon is greater than the binding energy of an atomic shell, an electron will beejected (called photoelectron). This process is called photoelectric effect and the energyof the photoelectron will be equal to the difference between the incident photon energyand the binding energy of the respective shell. The vacancy is then filled by an electron ina higher shell. This electron transition results in the emission of an X-ray photon (X-rayfluorescence - XRF) of energy characteristic to the atom. This X-ray photon will have anenergy equal to the difference in energy between the two shells. Since the atomic energylevels of each element in the periodic table are distinct, the fluorescent X-ray emissionfrom atoms can be used to directly identify the presence of the element. This forms the basis for remotely sensing the chemistry of planetary surfaces.
 
No:ofX-rays
Energy of XRF photons
(a)(b)
.
1
How doplanetarysurfaces emit X-rays?
In laboratories, X-ray generators or radioactiveisotopes are used to illuminate the sample under study. But these are too weak to excite enough XRF photons (that can be detected by an X-ray detector)from the planetary surface if carried onboard anorbiting spacecraft.On the other hand, the Sun can be the source of X-rays. The surface temperature of the Sun is ~ 6000K, which implies that the resulting blackbody emission is mostintense at visible wavelengths. The Sun also emits X-rays. The changes in solar magneticconfigurations give rise to sporadic release of energy. Often this results in acceleration of  particles. Accelerated electrons that strike cool gas atoms on the solar surface, radiatesenergy in the form of X-rays. This is referred to as a solar flare where the X-ray emissionsuddenly increases, reaches a maximum and decays over a time scale of minutes to hours(Fig. 2). Flares are often classified according to increasing intensity as belonging to A, B,C, M or X class (see table 1 for details), each class being ten times more intense than the previous.Table 1: GOES classification of solar flares
1
λ(angstroms) = hc/E=12.398/E (keV)
Figure 1: (a) decay of excited atom results in emission of fluorescent X-ray photon of a specific energycharacteristic to the atom. (b) XRF spectrum from a stainless steel plate showing lines from the major elements present in stainless steel.Figure 2: Time profile of X-ray emission from the Sun asobserved by the SOXS experiment on GSAT-2. Note theextreme sudden onset of the flare compared to the slowdecay and how the X-ray intensity varies at the two differentenergy bands.
 
\When the solar X-rays strike the atoms on the surface of the planetary body, as describedin the previous section, XRF photons are emitted from the upper few microns.
2
An X-raydetector on the orbiting spacecraft can then detect them and measure its energy togenerate a spectrum.
How do we determine elemental abundance from X-ray spectra?
Each element emits XRF photons at a unique energy and thus provides an unmistakableidentification of the same. The technique is thus very efficient in identifying the elements present in the sample. Determining the composition also means that we need to know the proportion in which each element is present in the sample. The conversion of the number of X-ray photons of a given energy (X-ray line flux) into elemental abundances is not astraightforward process. This is because, in addition to the true elemental abundances, theobserved X-ray line flux from a planetary body also depends on :
the incident solar spectrum S(E)
 3
: The solar X-ray emission is highly variableover periods as short as a few seconds. Hence it is important to continuouslymeasure the solar spectrum.
inter-element effects M(a function of S and E): The observed X-ray fluorescentline intensity from a sample depends on the mass fraction of other elements in thesample.
 particle size : In regions where the mean particle size making up the target islarger than the penetration depth of X-rays (which is the case of lunar regolith), particle size affects the X-ray fluorescence line intensity. Laboratory experimentshave shown that the X-ray fluorescence line intensity for a given elementdecreases with increasing particle size.
incidence angle (θ): The angle subtended by solar X-rays with the planetary body’s surface.
 phase angle (φ) : The angle between the source (Sun), planetary body and thedetector.Clearly, the observed line strength (I
Obs
) of an element is not a direct measure of the trueabundance. However, one can define a relationship between I
Obs
(i) and a corrected lineintensity I
0
(i) (which can be directly related to the true abundance of element i) as
2
For example in the case of Moon, the upper 2 microns of regolith is sampled when we map Mg, Al and Siabundance
3
S represents the distribution of photon energies (E) coming from the Sun 
ClassFlux (W/m
2
) .(1.5-12.5 keV)A< 10
-7
B10
-7
to 10
-6
C10
-6
to 10
-5
M10
-5
to 10
-4
X> 10
-4
 

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