Water ice found on the Moon
Lunar scientists have confirmed the 'definitive' discovery of water ice on the surface of the Moon.
Images showing water ice on the surface of the Moon. Left shows the south pole and right shows the north pole. Blue indicates where the water ice is located. Image Credit: NASA
Astronomers have ‘definitively’ proven the existence of water ice on the surface of the Moon.
The ice deposits could be ancient, and have been found at the lunar poles.
Most of the ice at the southern pole is concentrated at craters, and at the northern pole the ice is more widely, yet sparsely spread.
The scientists behind the discovery used data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) to discover three signatures that, they say, prove there is water ice on the lunar surface.
The discovery may have implications for future manned missions to the Moon, given that a water supply would be an invaluable resource.
However, most of the water ice is found in the shadows of craters, where temperatures never reach above -156°C.
The Moon is tidally locked with Earth, meaning the same side always faces our planet, and given the Moon’s small tilt about its rotational axis, sunlight never reaches these cold regions.
The M3 instrument was launched in 2008 aboard the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
The orbiter operated until August 2009.
M3 was able to detect the reflective properties of the water ice and confirm its presence by measuring how the ice molecules absorb infrared light.
Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Staff Writer. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.