Back in 2009, when the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA entered the Moon’s orbit, scientists started sending signals toward it. Over the recent decades, researchers have been sending small laser signals toward the Moon. They have finally observed that the signals they sent all these years have bounced back to the Earth – a feat they have been trying for a long time.
In a study published in the journal ‘Earth, Planets and Space’, scientists have recorded that the light they shot towards the Moon has successfully been reflected on Earth. Scientists believe this finding is crucial for understanding the conditions of the critical instruments sent to the Moon half a century ago.
During the 1960s and 70s, the Apollo program was launched, successfully allowing humans to visit the Moon. Though those astronauts returned soon, they left behind a few instruments that allowed for the continuous monitoring of the Moon’s surface and the surrounding conditions. After the Apollo program, the Soviet Space program was launched, which also placed reflectors on the Moon’s surface.
These laser reflectors were placed there to help determine the accurate distance between Moon and Earth. With such measurements, other details about Moon and its movements around the Earth can be studied. For instance, how it moves around its axis, how the magnetic field of the Moon functions and similar details can be analyzed about the Moon.
Previously, the team had tried to reflect the light from the Moon via visible green light. But these attempts were mostly unsuccessful. Later, along with the French Université Côte d’Azur, the researchers used an infrared laser to send the signals to the Moon. Finally, the researchers observed that the light bounced back towards Earth. Though the light reflected was minimal, scientists are investigating further why the light returned contained only a few photons and how its intensity can be increased.