The moon contains more water than previously thought


The moon can hold water in more places and in greater quantities than scientists have suggested in the past.

The finding is based on two studies – published in Nature Astonomy – who looked at new data from the US space agency NASA. The discovery could be important for long-term planned human bases on the moon. It could mean that there are sufficient resources on the moon itself to provide clean water and possibly help produce rocket fuel.

Until about 10 years ago, scientists believed the moon was mostly dry. Thus, a series of discoveries provided evidence that water ice was widespread in small quantities over parts of the moon. The ice was thought to be in areas permanently blocked from sunlight.

But in one of the new studies, NASA said it was able to confirm the presence of water molecules on the sunlit parts of the lunar surface. The space agency says the identification comes from data collected by its SOFIA air observatory. SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP equipped with a powerful telescope.

The research was conducted by Casey Honniball of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “Without a dense atmosphere, the water on the sunlit lunar surface would have to be lost to space,” Honniball said in a statement. “Yet somehow we are seeing it. Something is generating water, and something must have trapped it there. “

Scientists have suggested that the source of the water may have been comets, asteroids, solar wind or interplanetary dust. The new research provides evidence that water could survive on sunlit lunar surfaces because it is attached to minerals.

“Many people think the detection I made ice water, which isn’t true, “Honniball said at a press conference to announce the discovery.” It’s just the water molecules, because they’re so scattered that they don’t interact with each other to form water ice or even liquid water “.

The second study focused on the so-called “cold traps” on the moon. These are areas of the lunar surface that exist in a permanent state of darkness where temperatures are below about minus 160 degrees Celsius. Scientists say temperatures of this cold can hold water frozen for billions of years.

The researchers say they were able to reconstruct the size of the cold traps and the location they are in from images and temperature readings from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. They identified cold traps a few meters in diameter and others 30 kilometers wide.

Planetary scientist Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado, Boulder, led the research on cold traps. He estimated that there are probably “tens of billions” of traps. “Since the little ones are too small to see from orbit, even though they are enormously more numerous, we still can’t identify the ice inside them, “Hayne said.” Once we’re on the surface, we’ll do that experiment.

Hayne’s team says new research suggests that more than 40,000 square kilometers of the lunar surface may have the ability to trap water in the form of ice. This estimate is 20% larger than previously expected, Hayne said.

Jacob Bleacher is the chief exploration scientist for NASA’s mission direction for human exploration and operations. He told reporters that the agency believes it is very important to find out more about where the water comes from and how accessible is.

“Water is extremely critical for deep space exploration. It is a resource of direct value to our astronauts,” Bleacher said. He noted that water is heavy and expensive to transport from Earth.

“Whenever we don’t need to pack water for our trip, we have a opportunity to bring other useful items with us, “he said. This could include materials that could be used to conduct larger science experiments on the moon.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and NASA reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the publisher.

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Words in this story

create – v. produce something or have it produced

asteroid – n. objects made of rock and metal that orbit the sun, but are smaller than planets

detectv. to discover or notice the presence of something

enormouslyadv. very large in an extremely large way

accessible – adj. able to be reached or used

opportunity – n. a period of time or a situation in which something can be done


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