Water confirmed on the moon

LCROSS Impact Finds Water on the Moon

LCROSS Impact Data Indicates Water on MoonEnlarge

 

The visible camera image showing the ejecta plume at about 20 seconds after impact. Credit: NASA

(PhysOrg.com) — The argument that the moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water. Secrets the moon has been holding, for perhaps billions of years, are now being revealed to the delight of scientists and space enthusiasts alike.

NASA today opened a new chapter in our understanding of the moon. Preliminary data from the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates that the mission successfully uncovered water during the Oct. 9, 2009 impacts into the permanently shadowed region of Cabeus cater near the moon’s south pole.

The impact created by the LCROSS Centaur upper stage rocket created a two-part plume of material from the bottom of the crater. The first part was a high angle plume of vapor and fine dust and the second a lower angle ejecta curtain of heavier material. This material has not seen sunlight in billions of years.

“We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and by extension the solar system. It turns out the moon harbors many secrets, and LCROSS has added a new layer to our understanding,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Scientists have long speculated about the source of vast quantities of hydrogen that have been observed at the lunar poles. The LCROSS findings are shedding new light on the question of water, which could be more widespread and in greater quantity than previously suspected.

Permanently shadowed regions could hold a key to the history and evolution of the solar system, much as an ice core sample taken on Earth reveals ancient data. In addition, water, and other compounds represent potential resources that could sustain future lunar exploration.

LCROSS Impact Data Indicates Water on Moon

Enlarge

 

Data from the down-looking near-infrared spectrometer. The red curve shows how the spectra would look for a “grey” or “colorless” warm (230 C) dust cloud. The yellow areas indicate the water absorption bands. Credit: NASA

Since the impacts, the LCROSS science team has been working almost nonstop analyzing the huge amount of data the spacecraft collected. The team concentrated on data from the satellite’s spectrometers, which provide the most definitive information about the presence of water. A spectrometer examines light emitted or absorbed by materials that helps identify their composition.”We are ecstatic,” said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact. The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water.”

The team took the known near infrared spectral signatures of water and other materials and compared them to the spectra collected by the LCROSS near infrared spectrometer of the impact.

“We were only able to match the spectra from LCROSS data when we inserted the spectra for water,” said Colaprete. “No other reasonable combination of other compounds that we tried matched the observations. The possibility of contamination from the Centaur also was ruled out.”

Additional confirmation came from an emission in the ultraviolet spectrum that was attributed to hydroxyl, one product from the break-up of water by sunlight. When atoms and molecules are excited, they release energy at specific wavelengths that are detected by the spectrometers. A similar process is used in neon signs. When electrified, a specific gas will produce a distinct color. The ultraviolet visible spectrometer detected hydroxyl signatures just after impact that are consistent with a water vapor cloud in sunlight.

Data from the other LCROSS instruments are being analyzed for additional clues about the state and distribution of the material at the impact site. The LCROSS science team along with colleagues are poring over the data to understand the entire impact event, from flash to crater, with the final goal being the understanding of the distribution of materials, and in particular volatiles, within the soil at the impact site.

“The full understanding of the LCROSS data may take some time. The data is that rich,” said Colaprete. “Along with the water in Cabeus, there are hints of other intriguing substances. The permanently shadowed regions of the moon are truly cold traps, collecting and preserving material over billions of years.”

LCROSS was launched June 18, 2009 as a companion mission to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After separating from LRO, the LCROSS spacecraft held onto the spent Centaur upper stage rocket of the launch vehicle, executed a lunar swingby and entered into a series of long looping orbits around the Earth.

LCROSS Impact Data Indicates Water on Moon

Enlarge

 

Data from the ultraviolet/visible spectrometer taken shortly after impact showing emission lines (indicated by arrows). These emission lines are diagnostic of compounds in the vapor/debris cloud. Credit: NASA

After traveling approximately 113 days and nearly 5.6 million miles (9 million km), the Centaur and LCROSS separated on final approach to the moon. Traveling a fast as a speeding bullet, the Centaur impacted the lunar surface shortly after 4:31 a.m. PDT Oct. 9 with LCROSS watching with its onboard instruments. Approximately four minutes of data was collected before the LCROSS itself impacted the lunar surface.Working closely with scientists from LRO and other observatories that viewed the impact, the LCROSS team is working to understand the full scope of the LCROSS data. LRO continues to make passes over the impact site to give the LCROSS team additional insight into the mechanics of the impact and its resulting craters.

What other secrets will the moon reveal? The analysis continues!

Provided by JPL/NASA

Advertisements

38 thoughts on “Water confirmed on the moon

  1. First question: How much dirt will have to be processed to extract a gallon of water? Second question: How heavy and how large will the machinery be that would be capable of extracting hundreds of gallons of water in a reasonable amount of time? Third question: How much energy/gallon will it take? Fourth question: How will water be kept from freezing immediately in the lunar environment? Last I heard, getting anything to the moon costs tens of thousands of $/lb. Fifth question: How will we pay the costs given we are in a Marianas Trench of debt?

  2. Ok, they found hydroxyl (OH) molecules. They found hydroxyl molecules in comet tails also. Unfortunately, when our spacecraft went to a couple of comets, they found little sign of H2O only OH in the tail!!!!!
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060214comet.htm
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060216deepimpact2.htm
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060217deepimpact3.htm
    Look on the left for links to much more!!
    Also see here to see how well the PU/EU predictions have been doing:
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/predictions.htm

  3. I’m a little confused by the yellow “water absorption bands” in the first graph. Looks like the observed curve matches the dry grey dirt curve, while the blue bands on either side show absorption dips. Maybe the high relativistic speed of the impact has doppler-shifted the spectrum. Or maybe I’m misreading the graph.

  4. Well, if there WAS water on the moon, they’ve now punched a hole in the bottom so it will all run out. Way to go, Nasa. Pffft.
    Seriously, this is exciting news for anyone interested in seeing a base established on the moon. It makes no difference really if we go to the equator or the poles, it’s stupid cold and stupid hot either way.
    And if there’s any measurable, there’s a lot. Sometimes we humans just fail to understand the vast scale of planets and even the moon.

  5. .
    Whoa!! This is dangerous. Water vapour is the most powerful Greenhouse Gas in the atmosphere, and this water could do untold damage to the Moon.
    Send up a risk assessment team immediately. Cordon off the whole area. We cannot have dangerous pollutants like water vapour and CO2 infecting the Moon as well as the Earth.
    If this situation continues to worsen, the Moon’s atmosphere might eventually become …. habitable??
    .

  6. The expectations were that the impact would be easily visible with earth based telescopes, but that was a huge disappointment. So are there any explanations for this unexpected result?

    NASA marketing. The truth is that nobody really knew what would happen. It would be like doing the same on Earth and not really knowing if you’re projectile is going to hit sand or rock when it impacts, say, in the Sahara. The two would produce very different results. But anyway, my company was involved in constructing the probes and even we were fooled ;). It was a bit of a damp squib.

  7. Why is this report being given any space at all? Everyone knew there must be a small amount of water on the moon – there’s a small amount of water everywhere.
    Nasa (or the journalists) seem to be making a big thing of nothing. What we are short of is any indication of the quantity of water detected. I understand that was low – some figures I have heard suggest the ejecta plume contained a total of 25 gallons of water, and this from a kiloton-sized explosion.
    What we were hoping for was a solid sheet of ice in the crater shadows – an easily processed raw material. What we got was not that. Half a bathtub is a poor output for that much energy expenditure…

  8. Or of course the dusty surface was a best guess that they used when filming the moon landings in arizona. 🙂 and has remained ‘concensus science’ ever since,

  9. ““We were only able to match the spectra from LCROSS data when we inserted the spectra for water,” said Colaprete. “No other reasonable combination of other compounds that we tried matched the observations. The possibility of contamination from the Centaur also was ruled out.”
    Be interesting to see what they considered to be possible ‘unreasonable’ combinations of other compounds which could have given the same signature. Often you find what you expect to find when examining this sort of data.
    I would have thought there would be plenty of rocks on the moon containing hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are often mistaken for the signature of water?

  10. The argument that the moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water.
    They’re just making a big splash. And trying to flood the airwaves. It will cut no ice with Dry Moon fundies. They’re not going to water down their convictions. They can see that you’re trying to rain on their parade. And pretty soon it’ll all just be water under the bridge anyway.

  11. chillybean (02:13:07) :
    Or of course the dusty surface was a best guess that they used when filming the moon landings in arizona. 🙂 and has remained ‘concensus science’ ever since

    Afraid to say that this was also my conclusion… the moon landing consensus is very strongly held… but hopefully science can begin to advance again some time soon as these “events” increasing become viewed as just historic folk lore… I am not holding my breath but I am keeping my fingers crossed… this is very much like challenging the AGW belief system…

  12. The excitement here is that this water can be mined and used for rocket fuel and sustainment for human explorers on the moon.
    Who knows what else we will find on the moon of value, maybe gold?

  13. The theory has been examined by enough people, and is so directly derived from simple principles, that this is not surprising. However, the first attempt failed. Although that was not an optimal test, it made the existence of water seem less likely. The success of this test was made more dramatic by the first failure, and it is recognized as possibly being a historic moment. It will be recognized as a historic moment if the water leads to significant human habitation of the Moon.

  14. Question? What else has science been wrong about that is so confidently taught to children?
    It seemed so obvious that the Moon MUST have no water.
    Does anyone else see that centralized education is dangerous?
    Oh BTW, I guess this opens the Solar System since H2O plus solar energy = rocket fuel ala hydrogen and oxygen. The Moon also has a big deposit of titanium.
    If the banking model and military-industrial-idiot complex don’t kill us the future is looking brighter. A huge IF.

  15. Just how old is this H2O? Is it older than Earth water.? Will there be a fad to drink moon water or comet water in the same way that twerps pay more per litre for bottled water than they do for gasoline?
    M’thinks there is a nice, huge, money grabbing scheme, with which we at WUWT should become involved. I’ll print the labels and a couple of others please find some bottles and fill them from a faucet. If we hurry, we can make millions of dollars and savage any critics or sceptics with Algore & Krudd Ad Hominen attacks. Something on the lines of—-
    “How dare you suggest our WUWT bottled water is not extraterrestrial. NASA has proved there is water out there. The science is settled. ET water is better for humans than Gaia’s. Get yours whilst stocks last!”
    Without apologies to AGWarmists.

  16. idlex (04:57:00) :
    The argument that the moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water.
    They’re just making a big splash. And trying to flood the airwaves. It will cut no ice with Dry Moon fundies. They’re not going to water down their convictions. They can see that you’re trying to rain on their parade. And pretty soon it’ll all just be water under the bridge anyway.

    Not to be a wet blanket, but I’ve always found wading through these sorts of exercises to be quite draining. On the other hand others seem to lap it up.

  17. What is the point of finding water now when we have no intention of going back for decades? We may not even go back ever at the rate the USA is going. I guess this info will be useful to China or The EU or something i guess.

  18. The expectations were that the impact would be easily visible with earth based telescopes, but that was a huge disappointment. So are there any explanations for this unexpected result?
    Yeah, they switched the target crater about a week prior to impact. Data from LRO indicated that there was a stronger hydrogen signature in Cabeus, so they switched to that crater and informed all of the professional, Earth based telescopes, that were participating and they all understood. The original target provided a good clear view from Earth, the final target was blocked from view by a high ridge. The decision was made because the primary goal was to collect data in the search for water, not to put on a show for the public. In the final assessment, science won over spectacle. (and the crowd rejoiced)
    That being said, some Earth based telescopes did detect the plume above that ridge, one of them even detected an abundance of sodium in the plume. Apparently some fine dust and vapor went as high as 30km or more.
    We’ve been talking about the LCROSS mission for a couple of months on Thunderbolts forum, including a few successful predictions and discussion of chemical reactions producing water.
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/forum/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2402

  19. This discovery is further proof that Robert A Heinlein is one of the greatest and most prescient of all science writers: “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” (1965).

  20. “The argument that the moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water.”
    The moon IS a dry place. The water they found would be in ice or gas form, a solid most likely. Dry/Wet would be used to describe a liquid…any kind of liquid for that matter.
    As far as my understanding goes the moon as no pressure, and therefore a liquid form of water couldnt even exist on it currently as far as weve currently dug down into it.

  21. Carlos (08:05:10) :
    idlex (04:57:00) :
    The argument that the moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water.
    They’re just making a big splash. And trying to flood the airwaves. It will cut no ice with Dry Moon fundies. They’re not going to water down their convictions. They can see that you’re trying to rain on their parade. And pretty soon it’ll all just be water under the bridge anyway.
    Not to be a wet blanket, but I’ve always found wading through these sorts of exercises to be quite draining. On the other hand others seem to lap it up.
    I wash my hands of this whole moon business 🙂

  22. Maybe liquid water exists below the surface. Maybe the moon has caverns or is hollow and contains a secret world with life a la Jules Verne. Imagine if all the time, energy and resources that are used for war around the planet were instead used for science and exploration. Or if some of those billions of dollars used to bailout corrupt corporations had been directed towards science. Wasted opportunities.

  23. A.Syme (05:31:29) :
    <"[…] Who knows what else we will find on the moon of value, maybe gold?"
    Yeah but… it'd be too expensive to ship it back to Earth.

  24. Greg S (14:06:18) :
    Carlos (08:05:10) :
    idlex (04:57:00) :
    The argument that the moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water.
    They’re just making a big splash. And trying to flood the airwaves. It will cut no ice with Dry Moon fundies. They’re not going to water down their convictions. They can see that you’re trying to rain on their parade. And pretty soon it’ll all just be water under the bridge anyway.
    Not to be a wet blanket, but I’ve always found wading through these sorts of exercises to be quite draining. On the other hand others seem to lap it up.
    I wash my hands of this whole moon business 🙂
    Would you drips dry-up with the puns already?

  25. Landin (14:35:30) :
    “Maybe liquid water exists below the surface. Maybe the moon has caverns or is hollow and contains a secret world with life a la Jules Verne. Imagine if all the time, energy and resources that are used for war around the planet were instead used for science and exploration. Or if some of those billions of dollars used to bailout corrupt corporations had been directed towards science. Wasted opportunities.”
    For what? Liquid water exists below the surface of the Earth as well as above, has caverns and contains a secret world with life ala Jules Verne.

  26. Carlos,
    I hate to dampen your enthusiasm, but without a really good jingle, moon water won’t do very well economically. Just look at the moon pie.

  27. Oh, nuts. I guess I’m just an incurable, hopeless skeptic. Just how the heck can a little molecule with MW = 18 “hang on” in a gravitational field that is only 1/9th that of Earth–where there is no atmospheere? Even if the water remains frozen, it still sublimes. I say the NASA guys are very likely smoking something weird and trying to assure that their funding for this expensive research is continued?

  28. jae hits the nail right on the head. He remembers his High School physics – as NASA PR hacks often do not.

  29. There I was, on my way to King Soopers to pick up some potatoes and juice, when I noticed the TV truck parked out in front of Chamberlin Observatory.
    see http://www.denverastrosociety.org/chamberlin.html
    Oh yeah, they are crashing the probe into the moon this morning.
    I wonder if I could get in and watch?
    The South door was locked, but the North door was open.
    I was wondering if I was going to get arrested or something. But, like my Beagle Strider, sometimes the potential reward is worth the risk. He might get a piece of bacon and, well, so would I.
    I peeked in the main room and there was a small group of men watching the atmosphere jiggle the image of the polar cap of the moon. At the center of the dancing image was the crater targeted by NASA in their search for water on the moon.
    One of the men approached me with a very friendly grin and introduced himself. He was the President of the Denver Astronomical Society, Ron Mickle. I didn’t tell him the truth about who I was. After all, I was this little, mischievous boy of about nine sneaking in to take a peek. That wouldn’t do, so I told him I was one of the neighbors driving by and just wanted to look.
    I mentioned I had read it cost $50,000 per pound to get water to the moon from the earth. They didn’t know that. Encouraged, I then rattled off a bunch of facts about the observatory. How it was financed by an early Denver real estate developer who later on went broke in the panic of 1893. How the first director of the observatory laid the foundation stone of the platform on which the scope was mounted.
    Ron said it sounded like I had read the book.
    I asked the quiet man with the beard who he was. It was the director of the observatory. He was also the author of the definitive history of the observatory, the book upon which I had based my comments.
    I was invited to take a peek through the telescope before they shut things down.
    What a thrill. Watching the moon just as the dawn was painting the fall dappled trees with its crimson kiss.
    To cap everything off, meeting the author of Denver’s Great Telescope.
    I have only one problem: How do I explain to my granddaughter Isabel why she wasn’t with when all this happened?

  30. Isn’t there a better way to collect the required data that doesn’t involve shooting the moon with a satellite?

Comments are closed.