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Water on the Moon: NASA cannot understand where it came from in temperate latitudes and what keeps it there

Water on the Moon: NASA cannot understand where it came from in temperate latitudes and what keeps it there 1

It is unknown where the frozen puddles appeared for the first time in the temperate latitudes of our natural satellite.

Water on the moon – in the form of ice, of course, was first found 10 years ago. Found in deep, dark and cold craters located at the poles. They were also delighted with this, deciding that in other – warmer and sunlit places – there could be no water. It would have disappeared long ago, even if it had come from somewhere.

However, either the scientists were mistaken, or they misunderstood something then, but the “new” water on the Moon was found exactly where it was not expected at all. The stratospheric observatory SOFIA (NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) found characteristic traces of “real” water not bound in minerals. 

Her telescope, equipped with an infrared camera (Faint Object infraRed CAmera), is installed on board a Boeing 747SP aircraft. Flying at an altitude of 15 kilometers, he observes our natural satellite – catches radiation – as part of a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center.

Water on the surface of the Moon - in its temperate latitudes - was discovered by NASA's flying observatory.

Water on the surface of the Moon – in its temperate latitudes – was discovered by NASA’s flying observatory.

Water, as shown by recent observations, “splashed” the crater Clavius ​​(Clavius ​​Crater), located in the southern hemisphere of the moon on its visible side. The water in it is distributed over areas of about 40 thousand square kilometers. It is about 412 ppm. Not much – in the Sahara Desert about 100 times more. But there is water on the moon. The researchers reported this on the US Space Agency website and in the journal Nature Astronomy.

How the water ended up in temperate latitudes, scientists do not yet know.

Water comes from somewhere and something keeps it there, – Casey Honniball, who led the research from NASA, is perplexed. But he suspects that water can be distributed over the entire surface of the moon, and not just in its individual nooks and crannies.

The search for lunar water will continue – in other places. In parallel, scientists will try to more accurately estimate its reserves.

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Up to the waist, and somewhere up to the neck

The fact that the moon is by no means dry became known many years ago. Analyzes of the lunar soil, which were brought to Earth by Soviet automatic stations and American astronauts, demonstrated that water in a bound form is part of local minerals. It’s there – from 64 parts per billion to 5 parts per million. Not so little.

Scientists who have conducted a second analysis not so long ago, testify: if you “squeeze out” all the water trapped inside the rocks of the moon, and pour it over the surface, a layer 1 meter thick is formed. Almost up to the waist.

Scientists were experimentally convinced of the fact that there is not bound, but real – frozen – water on the Moon in 2009 by sending a stage of the Centaurus rocket, previously docked with the LCROSS probe and the probe itself to the Cabeus crater . The analysis of the exploding cloud of the explosion made it possible to find the cherished H2O molecules.In 2009, vapor from lunar water kicked up an explosion from a rocket stage hitting a crater.

In 2009, vapor from lunar water kicked up an explosion from a rocket stage hitting a crater.

In the same 2009, NASA specialists processed the data obtained using the radars of the Chandrayaan-1 probe of the Indian Space Research Organization. And they understood: there is more real water, hidden, however, under a layer of soil, on the Moon than one could imagine. Much more. In a relatively small area near the North Pole of our natural satellite, they found as many as 40 craters filled with ice. The crater diameters range from 2 to 15 kilometers. They contain at least 600 million tons of water. It’s almost a cubic kilometer – a huge lake in total. Deep in places.

In 2018, Chandrayan-1 came in handy again. Thanks to a device called the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (MMM), installed on board, astronomers from the University of Hawaii and Brown University, along with colleagues from NASA (Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley), saw for the first time naked lunar ice – a kind of “skating rinks”, filled in the polar and subpolar regions. Where there is always a terrible frost.The location of frozen bodies of water at the South (left) and North Poles of the Moon.

The location of frozen bodies of water at the South (left) and North Poles of the Moon.

And here is a new discovery: water on the entire lunar surface. It inspires optimism for future conquerors of extraterrestrial spaces – there is no need to import water from Earth. Its own, obtained right on the moon, is enough to get drunk, and wash, and produce rocket fuel.

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