NASA finds water in Moon’s surface for the first time

NASA finds water in Moon's surface for the first time
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NASA finds water in Moon’s surface for the first time

For the first time ever, scientists have identified water on the moon’s surface. New studies reveal that water is more common than previously thought and pockets of ice hiding in shadowy regions.

Scientists have been finding signs of water on the moon since 2009 and, in 2018, confirmed the presence of water ice on the lunar surface. Now, researchers in two new studies have detected water at one of the largest crater formations on a sunlit surface on the moon and also found that the lunar surface could be harboring plentiful patches of secret ice in “cold traps,” regions of permanently shadowed spots on the moon.

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NASA finds water in Moon’s surface for the first time

NASA finds water in Moon's surface for the first time
NASA finds water in Moon’s surface for the first time

“If you can imagine standing on the surface of the moon near one of its poles, you would see shadows all over the place,” study author Paul Hayne, assistant professor in the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in a statement. “Many of those tiny shadows could be full of ice.”

Previous work identifying water on the moon was based on a spectral signature, the distinct “barcode” that scientists use to identify materials, which is reflected as a function of wavelength. But that data doesn’t distinguish between water and hydroxyl (the OH molecule) bound to minerals on the lunar surface.

The scientists found a wide variety of cold traps, including “micro cold traps” as small as 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) in diameter, and evidence that there could be hundreds or even thousands of times more of these tinier “micro” cold traps than larger ones. They also found these permanent shadows at both poles.

In fact, Hayne’s team found that a whopping 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers) of the lunar surface could potentially hold water. That’s more than twice the area scientists previously earmarked for water ice on the moon.

The interesting nature of these “cold traps,” is that they’re not just cold, shadowy areas where water is more likely to congregate. They are so cold that water or ice would be literally trapped there for incredible amounts of time.

“The temperatures are so low in cold traps that ice would behave like a rock,” Hayne said in the same statement. “If water gets in there, it’s not going anywhere for a billion years.”

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