Ice confirmed at the Moon's poles

August 21, 2018, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The image shows the distribution of surface ice at the Moon's south pole (left) and north pole (right), detected by NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument. Blue represents the ice locations, plotted over an image of the lunar surface, where the gray scale corresponds to surface temperature (darker representing colder areas and lighter shades indicating warmer zones). The ice is concentrated at the darkest and coldest locations, in the shadows of craters. This is the first time scientists have directly observed definitive evidence of water ice on the Moon's surface. Credits: NASA

In the darkest and coldest parts of its polar regions, a team of scientists has directly observed definitive evidence of water ice on the Moon's surface. These ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient. At the southern pole, most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the northern pole's ice is more widely, but sparsely spread.

A team of scientists, led by Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii and Brown University and including Richard Elphic from NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, used data from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument to identify three specific signatures that definitively prove there is ice at the surface of the Moon.

M3, aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organization, was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon. It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we'd expect from ice, but was able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapor and solid ice.

Most of the newfound lies in the shadows of craters near the poles, where the warmest temperatures never reach above minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the very small tilt of the Moon's rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions.

Previous observations indirectly found possible signs of surface ice at the lunar south pole, but these could have been explained by other phenomena, such as unusually reflective lunar soil.

With enough ice sitting at the surface—within the top few millimeters—water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the Moon, and potentially easier to access than the water detected beneath the Moon's .

Learning more about this ice, how it got there, and how it interacts with the larger lunar environment will be a key mission focus for NASA and commercial partners, as we endeavor to return to and explore our closest neighbor, the Moon.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on August 20, 2018.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, designed and built the instrument and was home to its project manager.

Explore further: NASA's Moon Mapper Beholds Home

More information: Shuai Li et al. Direct evidence of surface exposed water ice in the lunar polar regions, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1802345115

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11 comments

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elevyn_11_
1 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2018
did they step out of the LoC to "discover" this?
zanbel
1 / 5 (1) Aug 21, 2018
minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit... tell me
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (1) Aug 22, 2018
Well, some where else W.C. Fields would not go... besides Philadelphia.
Solon
5 / 5 (2) Aug 22, 2018
Surely it is worth the cost of landing a probe in one of these craters to determine if it is water ice? Confirmation of readily available water might make a big difference in the funding for future manned missions or longer term habitation projects.
humy
5 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2018
minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit... tell me

that is -156.667 celsius; lets call that -157 celsius which is about 116 kelvin.
I just don't understand why they keep quoting the obsolete Fahrenheit in science without even mentioning what it is in celsius which is obviously what the scientifically minded REALLY want to know; Very bad of them and it makes it sound unscientific and sloppy.
Cusco
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 23, 2018
Landing a probe would mean that Congress would have to actually allocate money for something that didn't benefit them personally or benefit the military. Not bloody likely currently.

My least favorite statistic:
Last year US military budget (without Black Budget or intel agencies) - $700 billion
All NASA budgets since its foundation combined, including Apollo - $800 billion

Shows where our society's priorities are.
jonesdave
3 / 5 (6) Aug 23, 2018
Surely it is worth the cost of landing a probe in one of these craters to determine if it is water ice? Confirmation of readily available water might make a big difference in the funding for future manned missions or longer term habitation projects.


No point. It has been seen spectroscopically. The signal of water ice in IR is well known, and very unlikely to be confused with anything else. The same tech has been used to detect water ice and water vapour at comets. It is definitely water.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2018
I just don't understand why they keep quoting the obsolete Fahrenheit in science without even mentioning what it is in celsius

At these temperatures Kelvin is probably most appropriate.
Celsius makes little sense as it is specific to a certain atmospheric pressure, and the connection to anything people have experience with in real life is long lost at those deep temperatures, anyhow.

that didn't benefit them personally or benefit the military

I'm sure someone can come up with a military or 'national security' reason.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2018
@humy
I just don't understand why they keep quoting the obsolete Fahrenheit in science
the article is from JPL and as such is written to appeal to the American layman, which is typically not conversant in science and uses Fahrenheit.

the study uses Kelvin (most appropriate, as Antialias noted above) and most laymen are unfamiliar with that as well or are familiar only in the abstract, even in Europe and other nations

.

@A_P
I'm sure someone can come up with a military or 'national security' reason
don't give them any ideas!
They're bad enough as it is, IMHO

LOL
Solon
not rated yet Aug 23, 2018
JD
"No point. It has been seen spectroscopically."

I'm doubtful of the absolute accuracy of spectroscopy in many situations outside of the laboratory, but even if it is water ice it may well just be a surface frost. I'd want to see a drill core before I'd invest in future lunar business opportunities.
jonesdave
2 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2018
JD
"No point. It has been seen spectroscopically."

I'm doubtful of the absolute accuracy of spectroscopy in many situations outside of the laboratory, but even if it is water ice it may well just be a surface frost. I'd want to see a drill core before I'd invest in future lunar business opportunities.


Landing in a permanently shadowed region may not be advisable.
Some years ago the LCROSS spacecraft was impacted into a lunar polar crater. The resulting plume was observed by Clementine. Unfortunately, it didn't appear to have the ability to directly detect H2O. However, it did detect the breakdown product, OH.
It may be cheaper to repeat the experiment in a similar fashion to the Tempel 1 comet impact. In that case they could detect not only the water vapour, but also the solid ice, and put constrains on the amounts produced by the impact.

https://en.wikipe...i/LCROSS

https://en.wikipe...cecraft)

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