Monday, 25 January, 2021

Water is more widespread on lunar surface than assumed, scientists report

NASA Has Discovered There Is More Water On The Moon Than They Thought Water discovered in sunlit parts of the moon
Sandy Nunez | 14 January, 2021, 17:21

It requires the use of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a special, one-of-a-kind telescope that is flown in a plane above the bulk of Earth's atmosphere.

And for the first time, the presence of water on the moon's sunlit surface has been confirmed, scientists reported Monday.

NASA, which plans to establish a space station in the lunar orbit called Gateway, envisages that ice excavated from the Moon's south pole may one day supply drinking water.

The observatory in the 747 is created to fly high enough above the Earth that much of the water vapor doesn't mess with observations - that gives it a clear shot at scouring the lunar surface for signs of H2O.

Sputnik said: "If NASA scientists had read a bit more work from their Soviet colleagues, they might have realised that the Soviet Union's Luna 24 probe made this discovery in 1976".

"What was essentially a test far exceeded our expectations", she said.

The most common hidden pockets of water across the lunar surface could be trapped in tiny penny-size ice patches that live in permanent shadows, the researchers discovered. "You can be much more efficient with what you pack".

This is definitely a landmark discovery and one that will likely prove integral to the future of human deep space exploration. "We find that the distribution of water over the small latitude range is a result of local geology and is probably not a global phenomenon", they said.

"Anytime we don't need to pack water for our trip, we have an opportunity to take other useful items with us, for instance payloads to do more science".

"Understanding the science of the Moon also helps piece together the broader history of the inner solar system", said NASA.

Credit PA
Moon holds more water in more places than ever thought

The newly published findings suggest that extracting the water won't be as easy as melting down ice cubes.

According to Sputnik, the USSR's Luna 24 discovered water when it went to our lunar satellite in 1976.

A research team led by Casey Honniball of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed the spectral characteristics of the infrared light in the 6-micron band, and identified a chemical signature that can be found only in molecular water rather than in hydrated minerals. NASA has often been very outspoken regarding extracting some water ice available on the Moon to fund the project.

In other words: stay tuned, because this isn't the last we've heard of SOFIA and the presence of water on the sunlit side of the Moon. NASA says they were able to detect between 100 and 412 parts per million in an area spanning a cubic meter of soil, which is around the equivalent of a standard 12-ounce bottle of water - to put that in context, NASA points out that "the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water" versus what SOFIA was able to detect.

These are not puddles, "but instead water molecules that are so spread apart that they do not form ice or liquid water", she said.

Although the English title of the 1978 paper was titled "Possible Water in Luna 24 Regolith from the Sea of Crises", Sputnik said the Russian publication was more definitive. It can be chemically split into hydrogen and oxygen, yielding components for rocket fuel-and breathable air. This raises new exciting questions regarding how water is created, and how it can survive in the extremely harsh, arid conditions of the lunar surface, explained Hertz.

The discoveries in 2009 led scientists to suspect much of the moon's "water" was hydroxyl, because it's more thermally stable than molecular water.

In the past, several studies suggested all water on the moon only existed inside the moon's permanently-shadowed craters.

A second study follows tantalizing evidence that there may be water elsewhere on the Moon. The team used data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to investigate "cold traps": permanently shadowed holes peppered across the Moon's surface, largely at the poles, which may not have seen the Sun for billions of years.

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