NASA has exciting news about the Moon. While we long ago discovered water in the ice form on the Moon, we always thought it only existed in impossible to reach super-cold places. But now, studies suggest water ice exists in sunlit areas that scientists could potentially send astronauts to visit.
According to a Nature Astronomy paper, co-authored by planetary scientist Casey Honniball from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, this water ice could potentially be sandwiched between grains of dust that protects it from the Sun or packed within very fine pieces of glass scattered throughout the Moon.
Two papers published in Nature Astronomy says that frozen water could be hiding in shadowy pockets, more commonly known as cold traps. The existence of water on the lunar surface is significant from a scientific point of view. And could potentially be a huge deal for future trips to the Moon as astronauts could potentially retrieve more water if needed. Beyond missions, this brings us one step closer to potentially colonizing the lunar surface sometime in the future.
Previously, scientists couldn’t prove that water was on the Moon. Scientists spotted potential evidence of water at 3 microns, which means that they couldn’t tell if it was water or hydroxyl bound materials (hydroxide contains oxygen bonded with hydrogen).
To get around this problem, scientists modified a Boeing 747 jumbo jet and added a 9-foot telescope — better known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). With SOFIA, scientists were able to obtain more detailed measurements at 6 microns.
As The Verge points out, we found previous water ice discoveries in large craters at the lunar south pole. These craters are dangerously cold, potentially as low as -400 degrees Fahrenheit. With our current technology, this is practically impossible to reach. Paul Hayne, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado, says, “They happen to be the coldest known places in the Solar System, believe it or not.”
Regardless, the discovery of water in direct sunlight on the Moon is exciting on its own, even if we can’t reach it at this very moment.