Having teased that it would make an announcement on Monday a week ago, NASA confirmed that it had discovered water molecules on a sunlit surface of the Moon.
Using its fly observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), NASA has detected water molecules in the Moon’s Clavius Crater.
Now, there’s not a lot of water here, in fact NASA says that according to data there is “water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface.”
That’s less than a can of Coke and even the Sahara has more water than what SOFIA detected. What’s important here is the discovery of water on a sunlit side of the Moon. In previous years ice has been discovered on the Moon’s poles.
But the amount of water isn’t the question NASA is now asking, it’s asking how it got there.
“Several forces could be at play in the delivery or creation of this water,” NASA explained, “Micrometeorites raining down on the lunar surface, carrying small amounts of water, could deposit the water on the lunar surface upon impact. Another possibility is there could be a two-step process whereby the Sun’s solar wind delivers hydrogen to the lunar surface and causes a chemical reaction with oxygen-bearing minerals in the soil to create hydroxyl. Meanwhile, radiation from the bombardment of micrometeorites could be transforming that hydroxyl into water.”
SOFIA will now be used to observe other areas across the surface of the Moon as NASA tries to find more water on sunlit sides of the Moon.
The hope is that with more discoveries, scientists can learn more about how water is produced, stored and moved across the Moon.
“Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers,” explained chief exploration scientists for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, Jacob Bleacher.
“If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries.”
[Image – NASA]