NASA finds evidence of water ice on moon

A team of scientists from NASA’s Ames Research Center, the University of Hawaii and Brown University have uncovered evidence of water ice on the moon’s surface.

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory made the announcement Monday, confirming ice deposits “in the darkest and coldest parts” of the moon’s polar regions. 

The scientists used data from NASA JPL’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument, launched by the Indian Space Research Organization in 2008, to identify the ice. Their findings were published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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The M3 instrument offered scientists data on ice’s reflective properties as well as data on the way its molecules absorb infrared light to help differentiate between liquid water, vapor and solid ice, according to NASA.

“The small tilt of the rotation axes” causes topographic depressions in the moon’s polar regions, such as impact craters, researchers wrote in the study. Those depressions are permanently shadowed from sunlight, leading to extremely low surface temperatures. In fact, about 93 percent of the ice locations found exhibited annual maximum surface temperatures below 110 K s(or -262 F). And the warmest temperatures never reach more than -250 F.

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While previous observations have noted possible signs of ice on the surface of the moon, this is the first to confirm the detections. 

“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 surface,” NASA wrote in the news release.

Scientists hope to continue to learn more about the ice and its interaction with the lunar environment.

Read more about the scientists’ findings at pnas.org.

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