US researchers have found further evidence that there may be water on the moon. Not only as water molecules on the surface – but also permanently stored as ice.
American researchers have found new evidence of water on the moon. There is evidence of water molecules on the surface and areas on the moon where water can be permanently stored as ice, two teams of scientists report in the journal “Nature Astronomy”. Water supplies on the moon would be especially important for future lunar missions.
In the first study, researchers led by Casey Honniball of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu analyzed data from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia) – one of the US space agency NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on flying Telescope converted Boeing 747 .
Water molecules in crevices between debris
When examining Clavius Crater to the south of Earth’s satellite, they found traces of water molecules. They suspect that these could mainly be kept in glass beads or in cracks between debris on the surface. In general, they assume that water molecules are more likely in areas near the polar region than in other areas closer to the lunar equator.
In the second study, a team led by Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado at Boulder looked specifically for craters, crevices and small areas where water ice might occur. Using data from the NASA “Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter” probe and theoretical models, they searched for so-called cold traps – areas that are permanently shaded where water ice could be preserved due to the constant cold. In addition to impact craters, this also includes smaller areas that are always shielded from the sun’s rays.
40,000 square kilometers of permanent shade
According to the study, an area of 40,000 square kilometers could be in permanent shadow on the moon – that’s about twice as much as other studies suggest. In theory, water ice could be stored there. As expected, most of these regions are located in the polar regions of the celestial body; the researchers locate 60 percent of the areas in the southern hemisphere.
“If you imagine standing on the lunar surface near one of the poles, you see shadows everywhere,” Hayne is quoted in a statement from his university. “Many of these little shadows could be covered with ice.” The researchers cite the Shackleton crater at the South Pole, which is more than four kilometers deep and more than 20 kilometers in diameter, as an example of larger zones of water ice. Large parts of this crater are in eternal shadow.
Water supplies important for a manned moon station
For a long time, the satellite was considered bone dry. But for several years, there has been increasing scientific evidence that the moon may have more water than expected. As far back as 1994, the NASA “Clementine” probe had provided evidence of water in shady craters.
Ten years ago, NASA’s lunar mission “LCROSS” showed that there was water ice in an eternally dark crater at the south pole of the Earth’s satellite. More finds followed. Water supplies would be extremely important for Earth satellite research – for manned lunar stations, for example.