With an incredible finding, NASA is announcing that liquid water has been measured and documented on the surface of the moon.
In a fascinating report, NASA has been able to confirm the presence of water on the moon. But not just any water – this is liquid on the surface. In addition, scientists report that the moon may have regions “cold enough to hold onto water ice for millions, if not billions, of years”.
According to The NY Times’ writeup on NASA’s findings, small water-ice deposits in these locations could change everything.
“It is a real game changer,” says Paul O. Hayne, professor of planetary sciences at University of Colorado. “It could make it much more accessible to future astronauts and rover missions.”
This isn’t the first time NASA has detected water on the moon. It is, however, the first time they’ve been able to confirm and measure it. The ice we’ve known of for a few decades now, is also exciting. It’s presence at the lunar South Pole makes it a surefire destination for future NASA astronauts.
Such ice might not only provide water for future astronauts to drink, but water molecules can also be [made] into their constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The oxygen would give the astronauts something to breathe. Hydrogen and oxygen can also be [made into] rocket propellant for trips home to Earth or even some day to Mars and beyond. If the astronauts have to lug fewer supplies from Earth, that would make exploration of the moon easier.NY Times
Scientific Paper Proves Water is “There on the Moon”
The NY Times goes on to details scientists’ use of SOFIA to make moon-based measurements. SOFIA is an infrared telescope inside a 747 jumbo jet, and is used to measure the presence of water. Flying the telescope in the upper atmosphere allows for said measurements. From the ground water is impossible for us to measure – as there is so much in our lower atmosphere.
In the observations taken by NASA’s flying telescope, scientists were able to observe a wavelength of infrared light emitted by water molecules. Those emissions were seen in the Clavius crater near the South Pole. But not near the lunar Equator where temperatures get warmer.
Previous measurements focused on a shorter wavelength that was more ambiguous. It can indicate a water molecule, which consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atoms or hydroxyl. Which has one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom.
The infrared measurement, at a wavelength of six microns, is a “unique fingerprint” of water, said Casey I. Honniball, a postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the report in Nature Astronomy. “That can’t [be] hydroxyl.”NY Times
No lunar spacecraft has these measurement tools, either. At least not yet.
To solve this, however, NASA is sending a “robotic lander to the moon’s South Pole in 2022”. And Dr. Hayne says that an infrared camera built into the probe will do the trick. It will “be able to tell, to test our hypothesis directly for the first time,” he says.
Color us excited.
[H/T NY Times]