Evidence of water on moon’s surface, but terms and conditions apply

  • A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found definitive evidence of the ice water on the surface of the moon.
  • Researchers used images from NASA’s moon mineralogy mapper that was aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1.
  • While there is potential for the future, the picture is not quite as rosy as it seems.
It’s been long speculated that there is water present on the moon, but now a team of researchers from various US universities including the NASA Ames Research Center have found ‘direct and definitive evidence’ that it, in fact, exists on the surface of the moon itself.

This development comes from studying the infrared measurements taken by NASA’s moon mineralogy mapper that was abroad India’s lunar orbiter, the Chandrayaan-1. The measurements spell-out the telltale signature for the existence of frozen water on the moon.

While this discovery may be significant for future manned expeditions and mining for water on the moon, there are certain terms and conditions that should be kept in mind.

Moon mud

While the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences does provide evidence of water, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is in abundance. What are being called ‘cold traps’ are essentially 30% water mixed in with a whole lot of dirt. So, at the end of the day, it’s moon mud.

And, working backwards from that, of all the cold traps that were observed only around 3.5% even showed any ice exposure. So, it’s not like there’s a lot of it on the surface. That being said, the spectral features also confirm that there’s a lot more of it underground. Observations show that water ice is trapped below the surface and accumulates specifically where the sun never shines, next to the poles.

Even when water was discovered on Mercury and Ceres, it was found in cold traps where the topographic depressions on their poles were as such that they were permanently blocked off from the sun.

The lack of sunlight, in the moon’s case, means that temperatures don’t rise above 110 Kelvin (K). To put that in perspective, 0 K translates to -273.15 degrees Celcius.

The potential ahead

At the end of the day, it’s not all gloom and doom. The discovery is significant to drive forward more exploration to the moon. In fact, India and China are already moving ahead with their programs. The former has the Chandrayaan-II mission that, despite its many delays, is set to launch in January 2019. The latter is planning a December launch to explore the dark side of the moon.
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