York USA (25 September 2009 LT) — In a landmark
discovery, scientists have discovered water molecules in the
polar regions of the moon, NASA announced on Thursday. The
finding was made in cooperation with the India Space Research
Organisation (ISRO) and India's maiden moon mission,
Instruments aboard three separate spacecrafts, one of them the
Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), a NASA instrument onboard
Chandrayaan-I, revealed water molecules in amounts that are
greater than predicted, but still relatively small, it added.
"Water ice on the moon has been something of a holy grail for
lunar scientists for a very long time," said Jim Green, director
of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters in
"This surprising finding has come about through the ingenuity,
perseverance and international cooperation between NASA and the
India Space Research Organisation," he said.
From its perch in lunar orbit, NASA said M3's state-of-the-art
spectrometer measured light reflecting off the moon's surface at
infrared wavelengths, splitting the spectral colors of the lunar
surface into small enough sections to reveal a new level of
detail in surface composition.
When the M3 science team analyzed data from the instrument, they
found the wavelengths of light being absorbed were consistent
with the absorption patterns for water molecules and hydroxyl.
"For silicate bodies, such features are typically attributed to
water and hydroxyl-bearing materials," Carle Pieters, M3's
principal investigator from Brown University, said.
She added that by 'water on the moon,' they did not mean lakes,
oceans or even puddles. Water on the moon means molecules of
water and hydroxyl that interact with molecules of rock and dust
specifically in the top millimeters of the moon's surface.
NASA said the M3 team found water molecules and hydroxyl at
diverse areas of the sunlit region of the moon's surface, but
the water signature appeared stronger at the moon's higher
Data from the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on
NASA's Cassini spacecraft and the High-Resolution Infrared
Imaging Spectrometer on NASA's EPOXI spacecraft contributed to
confirmation of the finding.
"The data from Cassini's VIMS instrument and M3 closely agree,"
said Roger Clark, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist in Denver
and member of both the VIMS and M3 teams.
"We see both water and hydroxyl. While the abundances are not
precisely known, as much as 1,000 water molecule
parts-per-million could be in the lunar soil. To put that into
perspective, if you harvested one ton of the top layer of the
moon's surface, you could get as much as 32 ounces of water,"
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