More than a decade ago, a spacecraft trio went to the Moon and changed everyone’s view towards the satellite. They were the first ones who stated that there was indeed water on Moon. Their statement was based on whatever data they had collected, including the telltale chemical representing water. At least something was already clear that the Moon is undoubtedly not a desert land like we thought it was. However, another confusing part was that the ground there was only damp and not soaking. Therefore, it was time that research the amount of water on Moon.
From all the pieces of evidence, scientists for a long-time were unable to assess the amount of actual molecular water on Moon’s surface. It means that they were unable to decide whether the majority was H2O or OH. The latter is Hydroxyl, the chemical composition of which lacks an atom of Hydrogen to become water. Later, in 2009, scientists came to a temporary conclusion stating that most of what is found on the Moon is Hydroxyl. The justification here was that the component on that surface is more thermally stable than proper water.
Newer facts regarding the concept of water on Moon
Recently, on Monday, October 26, brought along an entirely new dimension to the story of water on Moon. All thanks to two reports in the Nature Astronomy journal that are stating fascinating facts. In one of the studies, scientists have investigated the chemical signature through infrared lenses very clearly. They are deriving that the majority of the substance found on the Moon is molecular water and not Hydroxyl.
According to planetary scientist Shuai Li from the University of Hawaii, molecular water detection is unique. The fact that the liquid element was on the illuminated surface of the Moon makes it more interesting. Shuai Li, who is also the co-author of one of the Nature Astronomy journal studies, says that the liquid was exposed to extreme temperature fluctuation. Surprisingly, scientists can still conclude that there is water on Moon without any more confusion.
Shuai Li is a part of a scientific team that has been long searching for molecular water on Moon’s surface. They were also trying to detect ice as part of research on the Moon in 2018. Surprisingly, there was ice on the lunar surface hidden in shady regions, never receiving any UV rays of the Sun. In another similar study, experts reported that the presence of ice and water was more extensive there.
The role of SOFIA in the discovery of molecular water on Moon
Well, there is significantly less chance that you will be able to pack your bags and leave for a beach vacation to the Moon. However, there is undoubtedly more water there than anyone ever thought. Moreover, scientists believe that these resources are highly useful for future robotic and human exploration on the Lunar Surface. Also, to find out whether there was water or not on the Lunar surface required a flying telescope that was too big enough. Here comes the role of SOFIA.
One of the essential equipment that led to the significant discovery was the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy). SOFIA is a bespoke or customized 747 Boeing with a pre-installed telescope right behind the fuselage. The DLR and NASA carry out the aircraft operation. The DLR is the Aerospace Center of Germany, and SOFIA flies at 43,000 feet. When flying, a rear hatch opens, and a telescope comes out, pointing towards the sky. It helps to study the cosmos with extra clarity using the infrared lenses.
The 747 Observatory has an infrastructure that allows it to fly very high, which means that the water vapor in the air cannot affect the view in any way. Therefore, the telescope’s rearview remains fine, helping the scientists view every minute detail with excellent clarity. It is just awful that such an aircraft was never there earlier on because, in that case, experts could conclude much before. When the scientists finally turned SOFIA’s telescopes towards the Moon’s surface, they chose two unique spots. The first one was at a comparatively higher latitude close to the Clavius crater. At the same time, the second spot was very close to the Equator.
What are the other aspects supporting the discovery of water?
We now get to know that water discovery majorly revolves around the stretching and bending of the water molecules. You already know that water is a combination of a double hydrogen atom and a single oxygen atom. However, when the sunlight hits the water, the particles collectively absorb the same and start bending. As a result, it starts emitting the light backward, which is very similar to the concept of reflection. The whole idea is unique and happens only in the case of molecular water.
According to Shuai Li, the molecular water on the surface of the Moon is the same thing as what we drink every day. However, the significant difference is that the same is present there in very little quantity. Precisely, you may have to collect approximately a few tons of lunar regolith to collect about a liter of water. Presently, the confusion has become a bit more complicated. It is because of a new question that is arising. Scientists are now busy finding out the process through which the Moon is creating molecular water and maintaining it.
A probable solution to a new question
The Moon’s surface is open to all kinds of attacks by micrometeorites, solar winds, and cosmic rays. Experts are suggesting that the minimum amount of water on that surface stays within glass substances. Such elements form due to multiple bombardment and sedimentation of different types of substances and chemicals. Moreover, maintaining the molecular water resources on the Lunar surface becomes possible because the deposits do not get affected by the UV rays of the Sun.
On the other hand, the team of experts believes that solar winds on the Lunar surface may have a significant role in creating water. So, the Sun shoots hydrogen atoms that later collide with the Moon. Moreover, scientists have also come across Hydroxyl near the Clavius crater. Therefore, the experts suggest that micrometeorites’ effect may support the mobilization of the oxygen and hydrogen atoms. As a result, the formation of water takes place.