NASA’s lunar orbiter spots water molecules on Moon

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has observed water molecules moving around the dayside of Moon, a finding that could help scientists learn about the accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future lunar missions.

According to a study published in the journal – Geophysical Research Letters- the measurements from the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), an instrument aboard the LRO, of the sparse layer of molecules temporarily stuck to the surface helped characterize lunar hydration changes over the course of a day.

Key Highlights:

1. The latest research revealed the amount of energy needed to remove water molecules from lunar materials, helping scientists understand how water is bound to surface materials.
2. As per NASA, scientists have identified surface water in sparse populations of molecules bound to the lunar soil, or regolith. The water molecules reportedly remain tightly bound to the regolith until surface temperatures peak near lunar noon.
3. The water molecules thermally desorb and can bounce to a nearby location that is cold enough for the molecule to stick or populate the Moon’s extremely tenuous atmosphere or exosphere until temperatures drop and the molecules return to the surface.
4. Due to the complex way light reflects off the surface of the Moon, lunar hydration is tricky to measure from orbit.
5. The amount and locations vary based on the time of the day. This water is more common at higher latitudes and tends to hop around as the surface heats up.
6. Scientists have hypothesized that hydrogen ions in the solar wind may be the source of most of the Moon’s surface water.
7. The previous research reported quantities of hopping water molecules that were too large to explain with known physical processes.
8. However, the water observed by LAMP does not decrease when the Moon is shielded by the Earth and the region influenced by its magnetic field, suggesting water builds up over time, rather than raining down directly from the solar wind.

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