Feeds

NASA sniffs out (yet more) lunar ice

North pole craters lined with the stuff

Boost IT visibility and business value

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.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.