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NASA discovers water on surface of Earth’s moon

News | Alliah Antig

Photo courtesy of NASA/Daniel Rutter

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) confirmed in a press release the presence of water on the southern hemisphere of the moon. The findings by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) were published in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.

In their previous exploration, hydrogen was the only element present in the Clavius crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth. While they detected hydration on the lunar surface of the moon, the researchers could not distinguish at that time if it was water or other hydroxyl compounds.

SOFIA, with the help of its Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, was able to discover a concentration of 100 to 412 parts per million of molecular water in the Clavius crater, an indication of the presence of water on the sunlit surface of the moon.

The researchers also concluded that the discovery of water in a small lunar soil region “is a result of local geology and is probably not a global phenomenon.”

“Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration,” Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, said.

The discovery gave rise on how water persists in a different situation especially on a harsh, airless lunar surface.

“Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space. Yet somehow we’re seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there,” Casey Honniball, one of the authors of the study, stated.

NASA theorized that the raining down of micrometeorites on the lunar surface brought small amounts of water on the moon’s surface upon impact, resulting in the transformation of hydroxyl into water.

The observations made are now used to formulate a systemic approach on how to learn more about the production, storage, and transportation of water across the moon. Resource maps of the moon will be added to the task of NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover which will be used for future human explorations in space.

Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, sees that this will open more opportunities for new scientific discoveries.

“If we can use the resources at the moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries,” Bleacher added, looking at the likelihood of utilizing the resources found at the moon to minimize the load of equipment needed to carry during explorations.

NASA aims to learn more about the causes and effects of the presence of water through the Artemis program. Their purpose of establishing a sustainable human presence by the end of the decade can now be achieved by gathering relevant information in advance before sending the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024.

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Scientia

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The official student publication of the College of Science, UP Diliman.

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