More Water on Moon – NASA Discovers
The astronauts are ever interested in spending more time on the south pole of the moon. The reason behind this is that ever shadowed craters, there have plenty of deposits of water and ice. The presence of ice means water, and water (H2O) means oxygen & hydrogen. Both are valuable gases, oxygen for synthesizing atmosphere, and hydrogen for rocket fuel. The trouble, however, is with permanent shadows. It becomes too cold to bear due to lack of sunlight, about -250º C (-418º F). Darkness is another big hurdle in working in such a cold and dark place. An easier for the work can be the places in more temperate parts of the moon. A site lit for at least two weeks in a month is ideal for work for astronauts. Luckily NASA recently discovered such a site. The site is Clavius Crater, between 50 and 75 degrees latitude in the southern lunar hemisphere.
The New Site
The site has been discovered by the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). It is a telescope mounted inside a retrofitted Boeing 747, measuring 9ft (2.7meter) in size. The plane flies at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13700 m). It is above 99.9% of atmospheric water vapor. Even a little vapor creates hindrance in some frequencies, causing earthbound telescopes to blur and blind in certain parts of the infrared spectrum.
The Way it Happens
The hydrogen’s chemical fingerprint in the lunar “regolith,” or soil were detected in earlier studies, which were supposed in the form of hydroxyl. The hydroxyl items consist of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom. It is known as a stable molecule capable of naturally forming in a regolith where oxygen exists. The possibility of the existence of H2O or water was there, but earth-based telescopes could not detect it. NASA was trying to find the fingerprint of water through SOFIA for over the last two years. It has now detected the molecular jackpot, at a precise location across Clavius.
Is it Useful?
The discovery is not possible to reach by the future astronauts. It is very much scarce, about 100 to 400 parts per million, the equivalent of 0.35 liters (12 oz.) of water in a cubic meter of lunar soil. The other reason is that water molecules are not interacting with each other to convert into a quantity of ice or water. Instead, those are formed by violent collisions of micrometeorites. Those collisions provide the heat to convert hydroxyl molecules to water molecules. Those molecules are then entrained within microscopically small glass beads also created by the collisions. The scarcity of water and extraction difficulties will push the astronauts to consider those shadowed craters.
The SOFIA discovery still is valuable. It means that similar deposits are possible at other lunar sites. Let wait and see what the future holds for the human race to discover more.