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NASA Scientists Map Water on Moon Using India’s Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft!

Scientists now have a road-map to where water exists on the surface of the Moon!

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A jet plane flies across the moon seen from Beijing, China, Nov. 14, 2016. VOA
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New York, September 16, 2017 : Using newly-calibrated data taken from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have created the first global map of water in the Moon’s soil.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, builds on the initial discovery in 2009 of water and a related molecule – hydroxyl, which consists of one atom each of hydrogen and oxygen – in lunar soil.

“The signature of water is present nearly everywhere on the lunar surface, not limited to the polar regions as previously reported,” said the study’s lead author Shuai Li, who performed the work while a PhD student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, US.

“The amount of water increases toward the poles and does not show significant difference among distinct compositional terrains,” Li, now a postdoctoral researcher at University of Hawaii, added.

The water concentration reaches a maximum average of around 500 to 750 parts per million in the higher latitudes. That is not a lot – less than is found in the sands of Earth’s driest deserts – but it is also not nothing.

“This is a roadmap to where water exists on the surface of the Moon,” study co-author Ralph Milliken, Associate Professor at Brown University said.

“Now that we have these quantitative maps showing where the water is and in what amounts, we can start thinking about whether or not it could be worthwhile to extract, either as drinking water for astronauts or to produce fuel,” Milliken said.

The way the water is distributed across the Moon gives clues about its source, the researchers said.

The distribution is largely uniform rather than splotchy, with concentrations gradually decreasing toward the equator, the study said.

That pattern is consistent with implantation via solar wind – the constant bombardment of protons from the Sun, which can form hydroxyl and molecular water once emplaced.

Although the bulk of the water mapped in this study could be attributed to solar wind, there were exceptions.

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For example, the researchers found higher-than-average concentrations of water in lunar volcanic deposits near the Moon’s equator, where background water in the soil is scarce.

Rather than coming from solar wind, the water in those localised deposits likely comes from deep within the Moon’s mantle and erupted to the surface in lunar magma.

The study also found that the concentration of water changes over the course of the lunar day at latitudes lower than 60 degrees, going from wetter in the early morning and evening to nearly bone dry around lunar noon.

The fluctuation can be as much as 200 parts per million.

As useful as the new maps may be, they still leave plenty of unanswered questions about lunar water. (IANS)

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Scientists spot massive ice deposits on Mars

Recent observations by MRO's ground-penetrating Shallow Radar instrument revealed a buried ice layer that covers more ground than the state of New Mexico.

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Scientists found layers of ice on the surface of Mars. Wikimedia Commons
  • Recently, scientists have found layers of ice on the Martian land.
  • Scientists think this ice might be a useful source of water for future humans.
  • The researchers had researched 8 locations on the surface of Mars.

Scientists have unearthed thick and massive deposits of ice in some regions on Mars.

The images taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) showed the three-dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars.

The ice sheets extend from just below the surface to a depth of 100 meters or more and appear to contain distinct layers.

It extending downward from depths as shallow as 1 to 2 meters below the surface, which could preserve a record of Mars’ past climate, the researchers noted in the journal Science.

This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS
This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS

“We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate,” said Colin M. Dundas, from the US Geological Survey.

“They might even be a useful source of water for future human exploration of the red planet,” Dundas added.

The researchers investigated eight locations on Mars and found thick deposits cover broad regions of the Martian mid-latitudes with a smooth mantle.

However, erosion in these regions creates scarps that expose the internal structure of the mantle.

The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed water ice.

The layers of ice can be used as water source by future humans on Mars, VOA
The layers of ice can be used as water source by future humans on Mars, VOA

The ice deposits likely originated as snowfall during Mars’ high-obliquity periods and have now compacted into massive, fractured, and layered ice.

Previous researchers have revealed that the Red Planet harbours subsurface water ice.

Recent observations by MRO’s ground-penetrating Shallow Radar instrument revealed a buried ice layer that covers more ground than the state of New Mexico.

NASA’s Phoenix lander had also dug up some ice near the Martian north pole in 2008, however, it is not clear if that is part of the big sheet. IANS