NASA announces the discovery of water on the surface of the sunlit moon.


Moon water is not banished to the dark side of the moon. On Monday, NASA announced that scientists have discovered water molecules inside Clavius ​​Crater, a huge lunar depression visible from Earth.

The discovery, detailed in the journal Nature Astronomy, was made possible by NASA’s SOFIA research aircraft, short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

Previously, researchers had already found concentrations of hydrogen on the sunlit surface of the moon, but could not determine its origin.

“Today we are announcing that the hydrogen previously found on the lunar surface is contained in water molecules,” Paul Hertz, director of the Division of Astrophysics at NASA’s Directorate of Science Missions, told reporters on Monday during a conference call.

SOFIA measured water concentrations between 100 and 412 parts per million. For comparison: in the Sahara Desert, water concentrations are 100 times higher.

The discovery, however, raises new questions about the abundance and distribution of water on the moon, which scientists previously believed was trapped exclusively in the polar ice caps and only at the bottom of the moon’s deepest craters.

Because the Moon has such a thin atmosphere, unprotected water on the sunlit lunar surface is likely to quickly disperse into space, yet scientists have found no irrefutable evidence that the water molecules are there.

How it gets there and what keeps it there remain open questions, the researchers said.

NASA’s announcement came in conjunction with the publication of a second study in Nature Astronomy, which shows that tiny, permanently shaded cold traps could harbor tiny patches of water ice across the lunar surface.

NASA scientists are eager to understand the hydrological dynamics of the Moon as they prepare for human missions to the Moon. Astronauts need water to drink, of course, but water can also be used to synthesize oxygen, make fuel, irrigate plants, and more.

If there is a sustainable water source on the moon, it will make it much easier to pack for long stays on the moon.

“It’s so much easier to travel when you don’t have to carry everything you might need someday,” said Jacob Bleacher, NASA Senior Scientist for mission direction for human exploration and operations, during the conference call. “You can be much more efficient with what you pack.

“The water is heavy, so it’s expensive to launch from the surface if we can’t carry the water with us,” Bleacher said. “We can take other things with us, such as payloads, to do more science.

NASA plans to continue using SOFIA’s tools to search for water on the sunlit parts of the lunar surface, but to solve the mystery of the moon’s water supply, more direct exploration of the moon will likely be required, they said. the scientists.

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