Astronomers have wondered for years whether or not there is a presence of ice on the moon. Now, it has finally been confirmed that, in fact, there is.
A group of scientists led by Shuai Lu of the University from the Hawaii and Brown University, with the help of NASA Ames Research Center's Richard Elphic, found the first evidence of solid ice on the Moon's poles.
The frozen water they found is based on the findings that were gathered by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper or M3, a NASA instrument. The researchers were able to identify three signatures proving that there is definitely ice located on the Moon's surface.
The M3 was launched in 2008 aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft by the Indian Space Research Organization. The imaging spectrometer is equipped to affirm that there is ice on the Moon by picking up reflective properties that are expected form ice.
Additionally, it was also able to gauge the way the properties absorbed infrared light. Through this information, researchers were able to distinguish ice from vapor or liquid water.
Notably, the Clementine, a NASA spacecraft launched in1994 hinted that there was ice on the Moon. However, the recorded measurements were not conclusive.
Where Ice Was Found
In 2009, M3 also played a big role in discovering water on the Moon. The ice was mixed with rocks on the moon crater's surface at its northernmost and southernmost points. These regions are known to be the coldest and darkest parts of the planet's satellite. Due to the rotation axis of the satellite, sunlight does not reach these points.
"The abundance and distribution of ice on the Moon are distinct from those on other airless bodies in the inner solar system such as Mercury and Ceres, which may be associated with the unique formation and evolution process of our Moon," reported the study.
The ice was found scattered throughout the zones and might possibly be ancient. Those found in the northern part were more spread sparsely. On the other hand, most of the ice in the southern part is condensed at the lunar craters.
The study is expected to inspire further research by NASA and commercial partners to know more about the presence of ice on the moon including how it got there, and its role in interacting with its environment.
Furthermore, the ice could also possibly be a resource to be used by lunar expeditions in the future. The study was published on Aug. 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.