Science

Chennai-based techie Shanmuga Subramanian locates ISRO’s Vikram Lander

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on December 04, 2019 Published on December 03, 2019

Shanmuga Subramanian. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

American space agency NASA confirms finding, credits Shanmuga Subramanian for zeroing in on crash site

Shanmuga Subramanian’s phone has not stopped ringing since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) credited him with finding ISRO’s (Indian Space Research Organisation) Vikram Lander on the Moon’s surface. This is a feat that neither the American agency nor ISRO could achieve.

In a Tweet, Shan, as the 33-year-old Chennai-based techie is known, said: “NASA has credited me for finding Vikram Lander on the Moon's surface.”

Subramanian, a weather enthusiast, is behind the Chennai Rains Live page on Facebook.

NASA confirmation

“The Chandrayaan2 Vikram lander has been found by our NASAMoon mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO),” NASA said in a Tweet.

Also read: NASA satellite finds debris of Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander

An image published by the American space agecy showed the Vikram Lander’s impact point and associated debris field. Green dots indicate spacecraft debris (confirmed or likely). Blue dots show disturbed soil, likely where small bits of the spacecraft churned up the regolith.

An ‘S’ indicates debris identified by Shanmuga Subramanian, the US space agency said on its website.

NASA has found Vikram Lander’s impact point and its debris on the surface of the moon   -  Twitter/ @NASA

 

So near, yet so far

The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was meant to land on a highland smooth plain about 600 km from the Moon’s south pole. ISRO, however, lost contact with the lander shortly before its scheduled touchdown, on September 7.

Despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was a major achievement for the Indian space agency. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Camera team released the first mosaic of the site (acquired on September 17) of the site on September 26 and many people have downloaded the mosaic to search for signs of Vikram.

Subramanian contacted the LRO project with a positive identification of debris. After receiving this tip, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing the before and after images. When the images for the first mosaic were acquired the impact point was poorly illuminated and thus not easily identifiable.

Two subsequent image sequences were acquired on October 14 and 15, and on November 11. The LROC team scoured the surrounding area in these new mosaics and found the impact site and associated debris field. The November mosaic had the best pixel scale and lighting conditions.

Zeroing in on debris

The debris first located by Shanmuga is about 750 m northwest of the main crash site and was a single bright pixel identification in that first mosaic, NASA said.

Subramanian has been tracking Vikram’s landing spot. On October 3, he tweeted a picture saying: “Is this Vikram lander? (1 km from the landing spot) Lander might have been buried in Lunar sand?”

Subsequently on November 18, he tweeted another image, “This might be Vikram lander's crash site (Lat:-70.8552 Lon:21.71233 ) & the ejecta that was thrown out of it might have landed over here.” This was confirmed by NASA in a statement this morning.

Subramanian told a television channel that he used only his laptop to find the images.

Published on December 03, 2019
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