NASA announced today that their Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) discovered water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This means that water may actually be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places. That’s right, water molecules (H2O) were found in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. Read more for a video and additional information.
Data collected from this location revealed water concentrations of 100-412 parts per million, or a 12-ounce bottle of water, trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface. SOFIA flies at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet, and is essentially a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner with a 106-inch diameter telescope that reaches above 99% of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere to get a clearer view of the infrared universe.
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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,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.