Recently processed data collected in 2009 shows NASA that there is water on the moon. Not only that, it indicates that there is water underneath the lunar surface.
India’s first robotic probe, Chandrayaan-1, was sent on a mission to the moon in 2008, making India the fourth nation to make moon contact. NASA was able to place the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) onto Chandrayaan-1 in order to further map the surface of the moon during its mission.
Chandrayaan-1 was originally launched in Oct of 2008 and was lost in Aug 2009. During that time the probe sent an impactor into the lunar surface in order to gather information on the debris from the surface of the moon. The impact was on the shadowed side of the moon in the Cabeus Crater. The particles thrown up from the impact showed water vapor and ice particles.
M3 also began taking detailed photographs and detailed mapping of the lunar poles. This was the first evidence that there was, at least, a thin layer of ice at both poles. The water found was hydroxyl — which is a single hydrogen atom bonded with a single oxygen atom — and it was assumed that the water at the poles was formed from the solar wind. The solar wind is movement of charged particles that are ejected from the sun and sent out into space, it has been thought that as these charged particles interacted with the lunar poles it formed thin sheets of ice.
The working hypothesis that the moon is an arid landscape was partially transformed by the water at the poles, but it was the most recent discovery from the data sent by M3 shows scientists there is more than just anomalous water on the moon.
M3 imaged a 37 mile wide impact crater called Bullialdus, located near the lunar equator. Upon further inspection of the data collected in 2009, it was determined that the rock formations that were upturned from a previous impact show a type of rock that form when magma is trapped under the surface. The letter that describe these finding was published by researchers in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Rachel Klima, lead author of the letter and scientist at John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, stated, “This internal magmatic water also provides clues about the moon’s volcanic processes and internal composition, which helps us address questions about how the moon formed, and how magmatic processes changed as it cooled.”
With this new information, NASA is now planning to use LADEE — Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer — to try and further verify the amount of water on the moon, as well as substantiating whether there is lunar magma and underground water. With LADEE planning on being launched Sept 6, there are now even more reasons that scientist are excited about the information that can be gather by this latest NASA moon mission.
While it has long been assumed that the moon is an arid landscape, this new evidence is forcing scientist to rethink their previous hypothesis. It was long assumed that the rocks brought back by the Apollo missions were contaminated with water from Earth, but now they are going to be reanalyzed to better understand what is in the lunar rocks. Perhaps these latest discoveries will bring more attention and excitement to understanding and using our largest satellite.
By Iam Bloom