Breakthrough: Water Found On Sunlit Surface Of Moon, NASA Confirms

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) confirmed Monday that water has been found on the moon’s sunlit surface, a breakthrough discovery.

NEWS: We confirmed water on the sunlit surface of the Moon for the 1st time using [SOFIA Telescope],” posted Administrator of NASA Jim Bridenstine.

SOFIA, or Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is the world’s largest flying observatory. 

“We don’t know yet if we can use it as a resource, but learning about water on the Moon is key for our #Artemis exploration plans,” added Bridenstine. 

“Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space,” said NASA scientist Casey Honniball, according to NPR. “Yet somehow we’re seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there.”

“When the first Apollo astronauts returned from the Moon in 1969, the Moon’s surface was thought to be completely dry,” NASA explained Monday in a Tumblr post. “Over the last 20 years, orbital and impactor missions confirmed water ice is present inside dark, permanently shadowed craters around the poles.”

Still, the questioned remained if water could survive in the Moon’s sunlit regions.

Using SOFIA, NASA was able to find water on the sunlit lunar surface for the first time ever. “The discovery suggests water may be distributed across the Moon’s surface, which is a whopping 14.6 million square miles,” the post said.

“Scientists think the water could be stored inside glass beadlike structures within the soil that can be smaller than the tip of a pencil,” noted NASA. “The amount of water detected is equivalent to about a 12-ounce bottle trapped in a cubic meter volume of soil.”

“While that amount is 100 times less than what’s found in the Sahara Desert, discovering even small amounts raises new questions about how this precious resource is created and persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface,” NASA said.

In a Twitter thread posted Monday, the NASA account for SOFIA explained:

We confirmed water molecules on the Moon’s sunlit surface for the first time! This suggests water may be distributed across the Moon’s surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.  

Water molecules were detected in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.

The amount detected is equivalent to about a 12 oz bottle trapped in a cubic meter of soil. 

But discovering even small amounts raises questions about how water is created and survives on the harsh, airless lunar surface.

The water may be delivered by tiny meteorites that deposit it on impact. 

Or the water could be formed by the interaction of energetic particles ejected from the Sun. 

Scientists think the water could be stored inside glass bead-like structures within the soil that can be smaller than the tip of a pencil.

Follow-up flights will look for water in additional sunlit locations and during different lunar phases to learn how the water is produced, stored and moved across the Moon.

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