Feeds

NASA sniffs out (yet more) lunar ice

North pole craters lined with the stuff

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

NASA has announced that the Moon's north pole is packing substantial amounts of water ice, lurking in around 40 small craters.

The evidence comes from the agency's Mini-SAR (aka Mini-RF) instrument, a synthetic aperture radar which travelled aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. The device used "the polarization properties of reflected radio waves to characterize surface properties", and determined that deposits in permanently-shadowed craters at the pole have characteristics "similar to ice".

The craters range from 2 to 15 km in diameter, and while the total amount of frozen water depends on the deposit thickness in each, NASA has calculated it as "at least" 600 million metric tons.

Paul Spudis, Mini-SAR principal investigator at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, said: "The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon.

"The new discoveries show the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had previously thought."

NASA's latest findings - published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters - add to a solid body of evidence for lunar ice. In September last year, other results from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on Chandrayaan-1, and NASA's Cassini and Deep Impact missions provided "unambiguous evidence for the presence of hydroxyl* or water" on the Moon.

The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) then showed there was plenty of ice at the Moon's south pole.

While it's evident that future Moon explorers will have no shortage of cold stuff to stick in their gin and tonics, one question remains: where did the Moon's water come from? It's possible that it arrived on water-bearing comets which impacted on the surface or, according to NASA's M3 team, by way of an "endogenic" process.

The M3 scientists have suggested that if the solar wind's positively-charged hydrogen atoms impact against the Moon's surface with sufficient force they can "break apart oxygen bonds in soil materials", and "where free oxygen and hydrogen exist, there is a high chance that trace amounts of water will form".

NASA has more details on the Mini-SAR findings here. ®

Bootnote

*One hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom linked by a single bond.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.