Water On The Moon: NASA Confirms Water Molecules On Our Neighbor’s Sunny Surface

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Researchers have detected water molecules in Clavius crater, in the moon’s southern hemisphere. The large crater is visible from Earth.

NASA/Screenshot by NPR

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NASA/Screenshot by NPR


The data confirm what experts have suspected, that water might exist on the moon’s sunny side. But in recent years, researchers had been able to document only water ice at the moon’s poles and other darker and colder areas.

Experts will now try to figure out exactly how the water came to form and why it persists. NASA scientists published their findings in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.

«Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space,» said Honniball. «Yet somehow we’re seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there.»

There are several possible explanations for the water’s presence, including the possibility that it was delivered to the surface by micrometeorites impacting the moon. Glass beads from that process could trap water, but the SOFIA instruments cannot distinguish between water held inside impact glasses and water trapped between grains and in voids, according to the researchers’ paper.

NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel contributed to this report.

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