NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon.
The discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places, Nasa says.
Water molecules were detected in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.
Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface.
As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA 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 harsh, airless lunar surface.
Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington said: “We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon”.
“Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”