For a long time, the moon has been thought of as waterless, though recently, numerous researchers have discovered water in some parts of the moon. New observations by the SOFIA telescope and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter by NASA reveal traces of water in some small dark craters as well as sun-baked lunar soil. Earlier large shadowed craters were thought to be a significant source of water storage.
This discovery has proved itself to be a milestone in the mission to discover possible life on the Moon. SOFIA is a very innovative and unique approach by NASA in the field of lunar science. SOFIA- Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a modified Boeing 747SP jet which gives its telescope, which is 2.7 meter, a view above 99% of the atmosphere’s obstructive water vapor which helps in more precise observations.
NASA’s SOFIA confirmed the presence of water on the sunlit surface of the Moon.
Water molecules were detected on the Clavius Crater located on the southern hemisphere of the Moon, which is one of the largest craters visible from the Earth. Previous research and missions towards the Moon have revealed hydrogen molecules but some were not able to spot the difference between water (H 2 O) and hydroxyl (OH) since hydroxyl is a close chemical relative of water. The data from the location (Clavius Crater) has revealed the presence of a water concentration equivalent to 12-ounces of water trapped in a cubic meter of lunar soil which is
spread throughout the lunar surface.
The observations on the 10-minute span focused merely on the region in the southern hemisphere of the moon since it is the largest crater (Clavius) which revealed a very strong emission of infrared rays with a wavelength of six microns. The area warmed by the Sun was reemitting the absorbed radiation exactly how water (H 2 O) would.
The researchers who led the project at NASA, also said that they aren’t familiar with any other material on the Moon that can emit single feature rays at 6 microns other than water. It is thought that the water might be stored in either the naturally occurring volcanic glass or is that it is between microscopic grains of rock dusk, in which case it suggests that it is getting shielded from the extreme conditions on the Moon’s surface, that is, high temperature and vacuum conditions. This would allow water to persistently exist, though there are no further answers to how water came to be there in the first place. The assumption is that water could have formed by the free oxygen and hydrogen which are liberated from the lunar rocks by the impact of the micrometeorites.
Earlier in 1969, observations by astronomers G.R. Hunt and J.W. Salisbury, show how much they focused on the characterization of minerals on the lunar surface instead of water, despite noticing the spectral emission, not realizing their huge discovery.
Now the Astronomers and scientists are planning to map the vast lunar surface in order to get some answers to questions concerning the characterization of the behavior of water, a variation of water behavior across the lunar surface in accordance with specific days, latitude, etc., source of water, etc. There are also some doubts within this discovery that this might also be just weak bonding of solar wind hydrogen with oxygen at the surface of grains of silicate glasses and minerals in the regolith as per Jack Schmitt who is a geologist and member of Apollo 17’s crew
who are the last astronauts to have walked on the moon.