ice on moon: Chandrayaan I data confirm the presence of ice on the moon

WASHINGTON: Scientists have found frozen water layers in the darkest and coldest parts of the polar regions of the Moon using data from the Chandrayaan-I spacecraft, which was launched 10 years ago by India, NASA said today.

With enough ice on the surface – within the top a few millimeters – water might be accessible as a source for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the moon, and possibly be easier to reach than the water that is below the surface of the moon is detected.

The ice deposits are irregularly distributed and may possibly be old, according to the study published in the journal PNAS.

At the South Pole most of the ice is concentrated at moon craters, while the ice at the North Pole is more dispersed, but scarce.

Scientists used NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument to identify three specific signatures that conclusively prove that there is water ice on the surface of the moon.

M3, aboard the spaceship Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the moon.

It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we expect from ice, but also was able to directly measure the distinctive way in which the molecules absorb infrared light, so that it can distinguish between liquid water or vapor and solid ice.

Most of the renewed water ice lies in the shadow of craters at the poles, where the warmest temperatures never exceed 156 degrees Celsius.

Because of the very slight tilt of the rotation axis of the Moon, sunlight never reaches these areas.

Earlier observations indirectly found possible signs of surface ice on the moon south pole, but these could be explained by other phenomena, such as unusually reflective lunar soil.

Learning more about this ice, how it ended up there, and how it interacts with the larger lunar environment, will be an important mission for NASA and commercial partners, as people strive to return to and explore the Moon.

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