NASA Spacecraft Observes Movement of Water Molecules on Moon

13 Mars, 2019, 16:09 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • This LRO image of the moon shows areas of potential frost. Image NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center  Scientific Visualization Studio

What we know now is that surface water is found in pockets of molecules that are bound to the lunar soil. Studies like this could point future scientists toward the places and times to best look for water on the lunar surface. That said, when the surface temperatures reach higher temperatures toward noon on the moon, the moving water molecules on the moon release from the chemical bond with the regolith and bounce around to other locations on the moon.

This massive discovery comes after a lot of assumptions that have surfaced claimed that the Moon is dry and inhospitable to liquid water. But a recent slew of discoveries, including NASA's latest find, have challenged the way scientists understand lunar hydration.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has spotted water molecules moving around in the moon, something that scientists say could help us learn about accessibility of water in future lunar missions. LAMP's light collection mode was converted recently to allow the instrument to measure reflected signals on the lunar dayside more precisely allowing improved tracking of where water is and how much is present.

Then, they bounce around until they land in a location which is cold enough for the water to cool down and get back to the surface. Michael Poston, a co-author on the new research and a research scientist on the LAMP team at Southwest Research Institute, said in a statement. "Previous research reported quantities of hopping water molecules that were too large to explain with known physical processes".

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According to NASA, scientists have previously hypothesised ionised hydrogen carried on solar winds from the Sun could be the source of the Moon's water. However, the water molecules observed by LAMP do not decrease during this phenomenon, and it's likely that the moon's surface water builds up over time, instead of "raining" down.

"The study is an important step in advancing the water story on the Moon and is a result of years of accumulated data from the LRO mission", said John Keller, LRO deputy project scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.

"With the U.S. pushing a 'Back to the Moon" exploration campaign but this time with an emphasis on a more permanent presence, it might be of some comfort for any long-term lunar settlers to know that our celestial neighbour is not completely arid as once thought but has in fact its own water cycle; not one comparable to Earth, but a very small one nonetheless. With that in mind, when the Moon passes behind the Earth and is shielded from the solar wind, the "water spigot" should essentially turn off.

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