Water on Moon? ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 confirms presence of water molecules

Updated On : 2017-09-16 12:54:44
New Delhi:

In an interesting finding, India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has created the first map of water trapped in the uppermost layer of the Moon’s soil. According to scientists, India's own Moon Impact Probe (MIP) on board the country's maiden unmanned lunar craft had also detected evidence of water on the moon in a finding confirmed by US space agency Nasa which too had an instrument onboard Chandrayaan-I.

Earlier, in 2009 scientists revealed traces of water in the lunar soil but Now, scientists from Brown University have used data gathered from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument to construct a detailed map of where water can be found on the Moon – and it turns out it's more widespread than previously thought.

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.

Also, Nasa thanked Isro for enabling the discovery of water on moon through Chandrayaan-I.

"We want to thank Isro for making the discovery possible. The moon till now was thought to be a very dry surface with lot of rocks," NASA director Jim Green told reporters in Washington.

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 the lunar soil.

Scientists from Brown University in the US used a new calibration of data taken from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which flew aboard Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in 2008, to quantify how much water is present on a global scale.

“The signature of water is present nearly everywhere on the lunar surface, not limited to the polar regions as previously reported,” said Shuai Li, former PhD student at Brown University.

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

Nair said "while the moon impact probe landed, it took nearly 25 minutes. It took some pictures that indicated these water molecules. Another instrument HYS1 to map minerals also helped Nasa's M3 in finding water."

Apart from India's MIP, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) of Nasa on board Chandrayaan-I also confirmed the presence of water, he said. The "quantity found is much larger than what was expected which is a real finding", he added.

Also, the newly-minted map reveals a few things about the Moon's moisture. At its peak concentration around the poles, water can be found at around 500 to 750 parts per million. Intriguingly, close to the equator water levels can fluctuate wildly on a daily basis, with the Moon having some 200 parts per million more water overnight than it does at noon.

This map can be proved as a useful resource for future lunar explorers, with places showing the highest concentrations of water being the best targets for missions, if we can develop ways to efficiently extract the stuff.

"This is a roadmap to where water exists on the surface of the Moon," says Milliken. "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."

How much water is there on moon?

The new study has suggested that water is abundant on the moon, however the quantity of it still remains a mystery.

Studies carried out in 2011 suggested that volcanic beads contained similar amounts of water as volcanic basalts on Earth. There is probably more water than all of the surface oceans, lakes, and rivers combined deep beneath the Earth.

This new finding could mean that at least part of the moon’s mantle might have as much water as Earth’s. (Read more about how Saturn's largest moon could have the components needed for life.)

What do the new findings mean for the future?

The glass beads contain only 0.05% of water, however, the sheer amount of them offers an exciting opportunity for future moonwalkers.

Astronauts could be one day able extract the water from the volcanic rocks spread across the moon that could save the hassle of bringing their own water from the Earth. 

“This is actually very useful,” says Colaprete. “We can actually now have a better handle on these deposits as a potential lunar resource going forward and can be compared to future studies of polar resources.”

First Published : Friday, September 15, 2017 12:53 PM
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