Lunar global topographic map obtained from Kaguya (SELENE) altimetry data shown in Hammer equal-area projection. Credit: Hiroshi Araki et al. 2009
Lunar global topographic map obtained from Kaguya (SELENE) altimetry data shown in Hammer equal-area projection. Credit: Hiroshi Araki et al. 2009

Astronomy

New high-res maps suggest little water in moon

12 Feb , 2009 by

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New maps of the moon from Japan’s Kaguya (SELENE) satellite suggest a lunar surface too rigid to allow for any liquid water, even deep below.

The new view is unveiled in one of three new papers in this week’s issue of the journal Science based on Kaguya (SELENE) data. In it, lead author Hiroshi Araki, from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and international colleagues report that the Moon’s crust seems to be relatively rigid compared to Earth’s and may therefore lack water and other readily evaporating compounds. The new map is the most detailed ever created of the Moon, and reveals never-before-seen craters at the lunar poles.

“The surface can tell us a lot about what’s happening inside the Moon, but until now mapping has been very limited,” said C.K. Shum, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, and a study co-author. “For instance, with this new high-resolution map, we can confirm that there is very little water on the Moon today, even deep in the interior. And we can use that information to think about water on other planets, including Mars.”

Using the laser altimeter (LALT) instrument on board the Japanese Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) satellite, Araki and his colleagues mapped the Moon at an unprecedented 15-kilometer (9-mile) resolution. The map is the first to cover the Moon from pole to pole, with detailed measures of surface topography, on the dark side of the moon as well as the near side. The highest point — on the rim of the Dririchlet-Jackson basin near the equator — rises 11 kilometers (more than 6.5 miles) high, while the lowest point — the bottom of Antoniadi crater near the south pole — rests 9 kilometers (more than 5.5 miles) deep. In part, the new map will serve as a guide for future lunar rovers, which will scour the surface for geological resources.

But the team did something more with the map: they measured the roughness of the lunar surface, and used that information to calculate the stiffness of the crust. If water flowed beneath the lunar surface, the crust would be somewhat flexible, but it isn’t, the authors say. They add that the surface is too rigid to allow for any liquid water, even deep within the Moon. Earth’s surface is more flexible, by contrast, with the surface rising or falling as water flows above or below ground. Even Earth’s plate tectonics is due in part to water lubricating the crust.

Araki and his team say Mars, on a scale of surface roughness, falls somewhere between the Earth and the Moon — which suggests there may have once been liquid water, but that the surface is now very dry.

In the second Kaguya/SELENE study, lead author Takayuki Ono of Japan’s Tohoku University and colleagues describe debris layers between the near-side basalt flows, which suggest a possible period of reduced volcanism in the Moon’s early history. They propose that global cooling was probably a dominant driver of the shaping of lunar maria on the moon’s near side starting about 3 billion years ago. 

The third paper was authored by Noriyuki Namiki of Japan’s Kyushu University and his colleagues, who report gravity anomalies across the Moon’s far side indicating a rigid crust on the far side of the early Moon, and a more pliable one on the near side.

Source: Science

Polar topographic maps obtained from Kaguya (SELENE) altimetry data. Credit: Hiroshi Araki et al. 2009

By
Anne Minard is a freelance science journalist with an academic background in biology and a fascination with outer space. Her first book, Pluto and Beyond, was published in 2007.


36 Responses

  1. Vagueofgodalming says:

    “the dark side of the moon”

    I think Science just fell like lightning from heaven.

  2. robbi says:

    If there’s not a few thousand acre-feet of water pooled in certain areas on the Moon, then colonies will be considered mute.
    It’s awfully expensive to heave alot of water
    such long distances…………

  3. Dave Finton says:

    @robbi:

    Not to mention that the supply of water would have to be continually renewed. You’re right, long-term lunar colonies is starting to look like a remote probability unless they find a surprise cache up there.

  4. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    SELENE. Another important piece of the puzzle.
    So much for growing your own self reliant crops on the Moon any time soon – except of course you take the water with you!
    Of course the future route might be to instead grab heaps of material from passing comet and place it in lunar orbit. Difficult engineering feat even in the near future, but viable option for future colonists and explorers on the Moon. Another option is of course prudent water recycling, but again the tonnes of water needed to be shipped to the Moon again becomes the problem.
    Sounds like construction of lunar concrete, tested many decades ago, is also now just a engineering dream.
    Also how does the lack of water effect the plans of material extraction to supplement the current Earth’s dwindling resources now continue?

    As a final comment, again it is good to see the international co-operation here. Proves that our return to the moon requires a multi-national approach if we are to solve how to use the lunar surface as a useful resource. Thanks Japan for the contribution to our knowledge. Arigatou gozaimasu.

  5. Max says:

    If we cant find water, finding hydrogen or oxygen sources in near space would work too.

    For a long term lunar colony of less than a dozen people this isn’t any kind of game stopper. You’d sustain them from earth the same way you’d have been sending up food and laundry, rationing out supplies the same as we do on the ISS now.

    For a lunar City its a bit more important to have a constant supply… but of course if you can make such a large construct with supplies mainly from earth, sending water is probably not such a big deal.

  6. GeoffofEssex says:

    What’s with the ‘dark side’ of the Moon comment; clearly the context shows the far side is meant. ‘Dark’ as in the unknown or unseen side has not applied since 1959. The ‘dark side’ simply means the area of the Moon unlit by either the Sun or the Earth..

  7. Peter says:

    Now here’s a silly question…wouldn’t any water on the moon be pretty well and truly frozen by now? And haven’t I read that water, frozen to temperatures not unlike the vacuum of space, would be as hard and not unlike, granite? And wouldn’t that mean, that it could very well be there, just not very wet-like, and not altogether lubricatory either?
    Just saying is all.

  8. KG6YRA says:

    Even if there is little H2O on the moon. We are still detecting hydrogen in the poles, which could be cleaner than cometary slush. Furthermore, oxygen is the most abundant element in lunar soil, comprising nearly half of the lunar regolith by weight.

    With chemical processes in extraction, water can be produced.

  9. robbi says:

    Peter-Not a silly question,you pretty much answered your own questions, and with some warming, will indeed be quite
    valuable. My understanding is it is about $10k
    per pound of supplies to send into Earths’ orbit, but to break away from Earths’ orbital gravity and head for the Moon, this cost will be more but I don’t know what the price will be but it will be high. With water
    about 7.5 pounds per gallon, water is very
    valuable! I hope there is a few thousand
    acre feet of water on the Moon, whatever
    state it is in, otherwise, heaving so much
    water to the Moon from time to time will be too expensive to even think of having a colony there.

  10. RickE says:

    A billion dollars spent and we now know what Galileo knew in 1610 – there’s no water on the moon.

    Space – it’s really dark . . .

  11. billymac1 says:

    Maybe it’s time to send up an engineering demonstration mission to test out solar-powered robotic manufacturing of water. This would be from oxygen in the regolith combined with hydrogen sent up in as big a tank as the mission can allow and store it in empty canisters or tanks on the lander. If it works, there’s a startup supply of some quantity waiting to be used for a human mission or base to follow.

    At the present cost to loft a pound of water to the lunar surface, I wonder what the dollar value of robotically-produced water from a semi-autonomous demonstration mission would be. How much of the mission cost would be “subsidized” by the dollar value of the produced water?

  12. s0l says:

    The more we find out about the moon the less it seems human friendly…Mars would be better. Plus on mars we know we have water, plenty of it. And acceptable temperatures, pressure and gravity.
    And probably life.

    The moon is just sterile. I hope constellation has been well thought about and planned and that it won’t juste be appollo number 2. Because people don’t care about the moon anymore, they want mars, a planet with a sky, snow, wind, colours…

  13. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    To decipher robbi’s and billymac1’s cryptic comments for the rest of us…

    – $10K per pound is in SI units about $22,046 per kilogram (c.$22000)

    – Water density at 7.5 pounds per gallon, is wrong, assuming it is a liquid. One gallon of liquid water weighs 8.33 lbs. (assuming U.S. gallons and not imperial) If you use water as ice, then it is about 7.62 pounds per gallon of water!

    Equivalent in SI units, is so much simpler – at 4 degrees Celsius, it is 1.000 kilograms per litre! (1000kg/m^3) At room temperature (20 degrees Celcius), it weighs 998.2 kg/ m^3. When frozen, the density of water 915 kg/m^3

    As for “acre feet of water”, equivalent is “hectare metre of water”, but it would be better said as gallons or litres or their multiples. I.e. megalitres. (ML) – 10^6 (one million litres)

  14. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    sOl wrote;

    ” I hope constellation has been well thought about and planned and that it won’t juste be Apollo number 2.”

    Good point… Will the missions be labelled as Altair 1, Altair 2, etc., and what will the lunar expeditions be labelled when they a living on the lunar surface?

    Another point I hadn’t thought of until now, would NASA be advised to offer a 24-hour TV channel of the lunar exploration for those on Earth to promote the missions and their new discoveries?

  15. robbi says:

    billymac1
    s0l
    billymac1- your idea sounds quite reasonable to me, using robotics and what KG6YRA said on his feed will find out the true feasiblity and cost without risking humans.
    s0l- Such thinking about Mars being friendly and the Moon is not interesting will change quite quickly when the general public starts to get educated about a true mission to Mars-on the length of time, distance, incredible ‘bordom’ of drifting day and day about halfway to Mars, the physiological
    perception of Earth being a point of light, the continuous fear should there be a dangerous problem occuring on the craft that can be deadly, there will be NO RESCUE!! We have
    as yet have no real life experiments of truly
    having humans living in the confines of a limited amount of space for a few years without ANY outside contact or without any type of ‘outside’ life required supplies (Air, food at the least). Without any true knowledge of having humans living together in such confines for such a long period- I think most people will finally realize they will go crazy and pass on Mars. Mars itself is proving not very human friendly in its’ own rights.
    We must do thinks one step at a time.
    A Mars manned mission I believe will probably put off until about the end of this century- while prudent tests for possible production for H2O on the Moon should be
    performed and checked for cost feasibility.

  16. robbi says:

    Salacious B. Crumb- I like your way to say my rough estimates of weight and cost are just that-rough. To give the ‘True’ weight and cost for such estimates will bore the general public and such equations will cause the general public to become ‘put off’ with these feeds and this site. Your specialize equations and true weights and costs will be more appropriate in a different site and feed.

  17. robbi says:

    Salacious B. Crumb – I also know when I say ‘heave’ instead of launch is wrong,
    however, I’m trying to have the general public read the posts and feeds to its’ full extent instead of becoming bored and look elsewhere. I write at times in an un-orthodox way to have people realize there are not just
    an exclusive ‘club’ of ‘ a specialized high hierarchy of scientist here, no-one else better
    post!!!!!

  18. GeoffofEssex says:

    Regarding the comment(s) as to the cost increment of getting a payload from Earth orbit to an escape trajectory; to the Moon or elsewhere. Taking the cost to orbit as unity, then the defining parameter would be the ratio of orbital velocity to escape velocity (1:sqrt(2)^2) squared; assuming the cost is proportional to the energy required – the cost to escape velocity is about twice the cost to orbit.

    I recall that it used to be said that doubling the energy required to reach orbit allows a payload to be sent to any other destination (eventually!!!)

    Perhaps someone with a better handle on the economics of spaceflight might care to comment further.

  19. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    robbi said

    Salacious B. Crumb- I like your way to say my rough estimates of weight and cost are just that-rough. To give the ‘True’ weight and cost for such estimates will bore the general public and such equations will cause the general public to become ‘put off’ with these feeds and this site. Your specialize equations and true weights and costs will be more appropriate in a different site and feed.”

    Always a good lawyers trick that is … accuse the accuser.

    In reality, perhaps you should instead focus just be a little more precise in what you say?

    As for the “general public”, well really that is not my problem ! – and I thought this was an open forum blog?

    I instead prefer to write for no lies and no deceptions. Sorry – any opinion is actually quite valid – as long as you directed it towards the subject and not personally target the article’s writer or the bloggers in question. However, unfortunately inconsistencies or errors should be corrected.

    Regardless, right or wrong, have a nice one…

  20. robbi says:

    Salacious B. Crumb- sorry to say this,but your indirect perceptions of deceptions
    is the name of your game, and since you stated this is indeed an open forum blog,
    I stand by my conclusions.
    C U L8R

  21. robbi says:

    GeoffofEssex- your equations are very clear to me,and as being roughly twice the cost
    more to send supplies to the Moon, makes my thinking of finding or processing H2O on the Moon something I really hope happens, otherwise, the Moon colony will be just a concept and a dream. The idea of getting
    resources from passing comets is centuries away -the concepts now available does not address the logistics required and is cost prohibited in any case and will remain centuries away.

  22. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    robbi said
    “…your indirect perceptions of deceptions is the name of your game.”

    Yet another good lawyer’s trick, declaring many falsehoods without mentioning the truth, eh? Be very very careful with having a such a dismissive approaches with obvious mistakes, because your arguments will simply falter. If there is a lie or error, say so, else
    see you later, indeed.

  23. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    I said earlier; “Of course the future route might be to instead grab heaps of material from passing comet and place it in lunar orbit. Difficult engineering feat even in the near future, but viable option for future colonists and explorers on the Moon.”

    robbi said; “The idea of getting resources from passing comets is centuries away – the concepts now available does not address the logistics required and is cost prohibited in any case and will remain centuries away.”

    Thanks for paraphrasing me. I’m glad you agree. Still it is a good idea, regardless.

  24. Olaf says:

    I am wondering, oxygene is in the soil, but you also have solar wind, and I also know that there is a lot of deuterium on the Moon.

    Oxygen + hydrogen = water, and in the beginning you do not need tons of water, just the minimal for the astronaut to love on.

    Maybe some solar wind trap that traps the hydrogene plasma could help?

  25. robbi says:

    Salacious B. Crumb- U have the lawyer trick of accusing and wanting nations who launched vehicles and want them to be accountable for such junk in space. I stated your forensic studies, which is a case to have lawyers involved, will hamper our ability to get rid of space junk. I don’t know anything about law, nor care about it, but I do all along, all you want to do is place blame on someone which is of legal concern, instead of getting to the heart of the problem of getting rid of junk. Stop trying to confuse the issue with your indirect BS of saying I’m using lawyer tricks while all along, all you do is place blame. The saying ‘ Speak for Yourself’ pertains to you Salacious B. Crumb.
    I am not a Scientist but had a Computer Science education and a Computer applications career and now happily retired, and have Sons who are now Engineers and have grandsons and I want my grandsons to be interested in Science and Math and have an open mind and ‘think outside the box’ . I realize I am not an expert on the incredible phenomena of our Universe, but I do certain know human nature, and you accuse me of intentional lies, falsehoods, mistakes shows me you are not knowledgeable enough know the quarks of human nature and yourself and you believe you are perfect-I told people who thought they are perfect such a person does not exist, if there was a perfect person, that person would be dead and buried but still not perfect because the body that is in the ground is causing problems for underground living lifeforms to move about.
    You can live in your narrow shell of thinking and fume why no-one very much agrees on your narrow hypothesis on many feeds-open up your mind and look around!!!

  26. robbi says:

    Salacious B. Crumb- I multi-task on my other 2 ‘puters concerning completely different subject matters and it is amazing to me when I get back to writing my opinion on some of these feeds,anyone can understand them as I am quite a ‘puter geek and like to keep my ‘puter riggs very much as advanced as possible and always doing other things,especially on the rainy days where I’m living in Sacramento,Ca- so when I get back to this feed,my mind is still on something else, however,I take offense,however slight, of your comments of intentional lies, falsehoods and mistake you accuse me of, -I’ve been on thousands of net site forums, and had quite some ‘internet bar room brawls’ of the likes you I will make sure you get buried and destroyed . I like to keep this site a G rated site., however, the choice is yours!!!

  27. Damian says:

    Does anyone have a link to the Hi-Res images?
    I looked on the Kaguya site but cant find this image.

  28. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    robbi
    You are starting to getting a just little confused here. The article blog here is about WATER ON THE MOON and not about “wanting nations who launched vehicles and want them to be accountable for such junk in space.” So your view is totally irrelevant to the story!
    Furthermore you said “…your indirect perceptions of deceptions is the name of your game.”
    Are they? I’ve deceived no one at all, here. I’ve just stated my opinions, and tried to make sense of what other write. No more no less. My comments in this article have been direct and to the point.

    Thank very much for you some what misinformed opinions.

    Note: As to you alleged role here; “I’m trying to have the general public read the posts and feeds to its’ full extent instead of becoming bored and look elsewhere.”
    I don’t recall reading anywhere someone giving you such authority at all? Isn’t this just a bit conceited. Perhaps “the saying ‘ Speak for Yourself’ applied equally to you?

  29. AJames says:

    Moderators.
    While Salacious might be fairly difficult in his responses, I do find it most offensive that DIRECT THREATS and personal attacks are made by Bloggers – especially when it is off topic.

    Direct threats like; “I’ve been on thousands of net site forums, and had quite some ‘internet bar room brawls’ of the likes you I will make sure you get buried and destroyed . I like to keep this site a G rated site., however, the choice is yours!!!”

    These are clearly improper uses of the Forum.

  30. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Damian said: February 13th, 2009 at 6:01 pm
    Does anyone have a link to the Hi-Res images?
    I looked on the Kaguya site but cant find this image.

    I admittedly looked for some too, and couldn’t find anything either.

  31. Vanamonde says:

    Mmmm, has anyone serious excepted to find evidence of liquid water since Galileo? Ice is what we want, nice layers of ice, maybe just below the regolith or even if we must dig for it, dig it we shall! Ice and solar power = The Breath of Life and good rocket fuel if there is enough O2 left after we have enough to breathe.

  32. RUF says:

    Could it be that the hydrogen detected on the moon is H3+ from solar plasma? Must admit, don’t know why it would be so abundent on the poles of the moon….

  33. Damian says:

    Thats a pity about the lack of high res images, that has been a problem with the this mission, we get you tube videos of what were once HD movies or low res gifs of supposed Hi resolution maps.

    I suppose there is no real requirement that such be made available to the public, but its hard to be inspired.

    As for water on the moon, It is curious how dry it is, as frozen water seems to make up a lot of smaller and larger objects in our solar system.

    (or so I read)

    However, I would like to ask, (as I dont know) How hard is it to Pair an oxygen atom with hydrogen?
    Hydrogen seems to be in abundance in space.

    (or so I read)

    Can oxygen atoms be extracted from regolith?

    Just musing.

    Damian

  34. Gaussling says:

    Consider what cometary bodies do when near the sun (i.e., inside the orbit of Jupiter). They absorb radiant energy and off-gas volatiles. Sublimation of solid low molecular weight substances like H2O, CO2, NH3, CO, etc. It is what gives them the distinctive tail. Now imagine how long the moon has been exposing its surfaces to the sun, all the while in a hard vacuum. Is it any surprise that the moon is bone dry? I don’t think so. Perhaps the name of the moon should be changed from Luna to Siccus Silicis (dry rock).

  35. Damian says:

    This study shows a fairly Reasonable method of extracting hydrogen and oxygen (aka water) from lunar regolith.

    http://www.asi.org/adb/04/03/10/04/oxygen-extraction.html

    So I wonder if the the fact that there is no readily accessible water ice on the moon has that much bearing on our ability to live of the land up there.

    More a research curiosity.

    :) hmm, Roving Robot Regolith Factory Anyone? . (R.R.R.F.)

    Damian

  36. robbi says:

    Salacious B. Crumb- I am sorry for my blowup and my mistake and sorry to all –I think I suffered from middle-age PMS- lol- but sorry for my mistake and actiing foolish you are right Salacious
    I just got back from Reno with my relatives and was snowing and got the rains we need in California.

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