NASA discovers water on the moon’s surface – Category

NASA discovers water on the moon’s surface – Category
NASA discovers water on the moon’s surface – Category

Molecular water, H2O, was found in Crater Clavius, one of the largest visible craters on Earth in the southern hemisphere of the Moon

The NASA Stratospheric Observatory of Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) confirmed, for the first time, water on the lunar surface illuminated by the sun. This discovery indicates that water can be distributed over the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shaded places.

SOFIA detected water molecules (H2O) in Crater Clavius, one of the largest visible craters on Earth, located in the southern hemisphere of the Moon. Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from that location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly the equivalent of a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface. The results were published in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.

This illustration highlights the Crater Clavius ​​of the Moon with an illustration depicting the water trapped in the lunar soil there, along with an image from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) that found lunar water illuminated by the sun.
Créditos: NASA / Daniel Rutter

Water found in one of the largest visible craters on Earth in the southern hemisphere of the Moon

“We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – may be present on the lighted side of the moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant to deep space exploration. “

As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water that SOFIA has detected in the lunar soil. Despite the small amounts, the discovery raises new questions about how water is created and how it persists on the rough, airless lunar surface.

Water is a precious resource in deep space and a key ingredient in life as we know it. Whether SOFIA water found is easily accessible for use as a resource has yet to be determined. Under NASA’s Artemis program, the agency is eager to learn everything it can about the presence of water on the Moon before sending the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface in 2024 and establishing a sustainable human presence there by the end decade.

SOFIA’s results are based on years of previous research examining the presence of water on the moon. When Apollo astronauts returned from the Moon in 1969, it was thought to be completely dry. Orbital and impact missions over the past 20 years, such as NASA’s lunar crater observation and detection satellite, confirmed the ice in permanently shaded craters around the lunar poles. Meanwhile, several spacecraft – including the Cassini mission and the Comet Deep Impact mission, as well as the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 mission – and NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, looked widely at the lunar surface and found evidence hydration in sunnier regions. However, these missions were unable to definitively distinguish the form in which it was present – H2O or OH.

“Before SOFIA’s observations, we knew there was some kind of hydration,” said Casey Honniball, the lead author who published the results of her graduate thesis work at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu. “But we didn’t know how much, if any, were water molecules – like we drink every day – or something more like a drain cleaner.”

Scientists using the NASA telescope on a plane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, discovered water on a sunlit surface for the first time. SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that allows astronomers to study the solar system and beyond in ways that are not possible with ground-based telescopes. Molecular water, H2O, was found in Crater Clavius, one of the largest visible craters on Earth in the southern hemisphere of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water can be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shaded places.
Credits: NASA / Ames Research Center

The discovery of SOFIA

SOFIA offered a new way of looking at the moon. Flying at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet, this Boeing 747SP aircraft modified with a 106-inch diameter telescope reaches more than 99% of the water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere to obtain a clearer view of the infrared universe.

Using his Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST), SOFIA was able to pick up the specific wavelength unique to water molecules, at 6.1 microns, and discovered a relatively surprising concentration in the sunny Clavius ​​Crater.

“Without a dense atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should be lost to space,” said Honniball, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “However, somehow, we are seeing this. Something is generating the water and something must be holding it there. “

Several forces may be at play in supplying or creating this water. Micrometeorites raining on the lunar surface, carrying small amounts of water, can deposit water on the lunar surface on impact. Another possibility is that there could be a two-step process by which the sun’s solar wind delivers hydrogen to the lunar surface and causes a chemical reaction with minerals containing oxygen in the soil to create hydroxyl. Meanwhile, radiation from the bombardment of micrometeorites may be turning this hydroxyl into water.

How water is stored – making accumulation possible – also raises some intriguing questions. Water can be trapped in small, bead-like structures in the soil, formed from the high heat created by the impacts of micrometeorites. Another possibility is that water may be hidden between the grains of the lunar soil and protected from sunlight – potentially making it a little more accessible than water trapped in bead-like structures.

For a mission designed to look at distant and dark objects, such as black holes, clusters of stars and galaxies, the SOFIA spotlight on Earth’s closest and brightest neighbor was a departure from business as usual. Telescope operators typically use a guide camera to track stars, keeping the telescope locked firmly to its observation target. But the Moon is so close and bright that it fills the entire field of view of the guide camera. With no visible stars, it was unclear whether the telescope could reliably track the moon. To determine this, in August 2018, operators decided to try an observation test.

“It was, in fact, the first time that SOFIA looked at the Moon, and we weren’t sure if we could get reliable data, but questions about the Moon’s water forced us to try,” said Naseem Rangwala, project by SOFIA scientist at Ames Research Center from NASA in Silicon Valley, California. “It is amazing that this discovery came out of what was essentially a test and now that we know we can do that, we are planning more flights to make more observations.”

Subsequent SOFIA flights will search for water in other sunlit locations and during the different lunar phases to learn more about how water is produced, stored and moved by the moon. The data will contribute to the work of future lunar missions, such as NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), to create the first water maps of the Moon for future human space exploration.

In the same issue of Nature Astronomy, scientists published an article using theoretical models and data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, pointing out that water can be trapped in small shadows, where temperatures are below zero, on more of the Moon than the expected. The results can be found here.

“Water is a valuable resource, both for scientific purposes and for the use of our explorers,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directory. “If we can use the Moon’s resources, we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries.”

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center. Ames manages the SOFIA program, scientific and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, based in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703 in Palmdale, California.

B-roll footage related to this discovery is available at: https://go.nasa.gov/2TnDWSd

Participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything about our Moon exploration activities at 1 pm EDT Tuesday, October 27: http://reddit.com/r/space

Learn more about SOFIA at: https://www.nasa.gov/sofia

Fonte: Editor: Sean Potter – NASA

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