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Water on Moon: Nasa confirms first direct evidence; see in pictures

The discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places

Moon

This image from 1991 shows Earth's Moon, with its dark basaltic mare, clearly visible in great detail. (Nasa)

BS Web TeamAgencies New Delhi
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The NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places, according to a statement by NASA.

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Scientists believe that the majority of the water detected must be stored within glasses or in voids between grains sheltered from the harsh environment, allowing the water to remain on the lunar surface.

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SOFIA offered a new means of looking at the Moon, NASA said. Flying at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet, this modified Boeing 747SP jetliner with a 106-inch diameter telescope reaches above 99 per cent of the water vapor in Earth's atmosphere to get a clearer view of the infrared universe. Using its Faint Object infraRed Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST), SOFIA was able to pick up the specific wavelength unique to water molecules, at 6.1 microns, and discovered a relatively surprising concentration in sunny Clavius Crater.

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In comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil, the statement read. Despite the small amounts, the discovery raises new questions about how water is created and how it persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface.

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"Prior to the SOFIA observations, we knew there was some kind of hydration," said Casey Honniball, the lead author who published the results from her graduate thesis work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu. "But we didn't know how much, if any, was actually water molecules - like we drink every day - or something more like drain cleaner."

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First Published: Oct 27 2020 | 9:37 AM IST

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