WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- NASA discovered “water as we know it” in a large crater on the moon’s sunlit side.
- Theories are that micrometeorites crashing into the moon’s surface could have delivered the water, or that something on the moon’s surface could be trapping the water there.
- NASA aims to find water in other sunlit locations and “during different lunar phases.”
This week, a news release from NASA confirmed that the presence of water was detected on the sunlit surface of the moon.
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft discovered water in a crater in the moon’s southern hemisphere- the Clavius Crater. Even from the earth, you can spot the large crater.
For the first time, the water has been discovered outside the sunless spots of the moon. According to the release, the amount of water found could fill an approximately 12-ounce bottle.
Director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, Paul Hertz, said that indications of “the familiar water we know” being on the sunlit side of the moon “challenges our understanding of the lunar surface.”
The next step for scientists is to figure out how the water was produced and how it has stayed on the moon’s sunlit surface. Casey Honniball, the lead author of the publication said that something must be generating the water and keeping it there, as the absence of a thick atmosphere on the moon should mean the water should simply be “lost to space.”
Honniball says that micrometeorites crashing into the moon could carry the H2O or tiny structures in the moon’s soil could be trapping the water there.
The discovery came from “essentially a test” which was the first time SOFIA focused on the moon, according to SOFIA’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center Naseem Rangwala. SOFIA’s next flights will focus on looking for more water on the moon and “during different lunar phases.”