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The visible camera image showing the ejecta plume at about 20 seconds after impact. Credit: NASA

LCROSS Confirms “Buckets” of Water on the Moon

13 Nov , 2009

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The LCROSS team announced today the mission successfully uncovered water during the Oct. 9, 2009 impacts into the permanently shadowed region of Cabeus cater near the moon’s south pole. “Indeed yes, we found water. We didn’t find just a little bit we found a significant amount,” said Tony Colaprete, principal investigator for LCROSS at a press conference. The team was not able to put a concentration of how much water is held in the lunar regolith, but in a fraction of the 20-30 meter crater the impact made, they were able to observe about 25 gallons (95 liters) of water with spectroscopic data. Colaprete held up a 2-gallon (7 liter) bucket, to demonstrate how much they found.

Data from the down-looking near-infrared spectrometer. The red curve shows how the spectra would look for a "grey" or "colorless" warm (230 C) dust cloud. The yellow areas indicate the water absorption bands. Credit: NASA
Asked if the team had “eureka” moment of when they found the water signature, Colaprete said, “It’s been a ‘holy cow!’ moment every day since impact. About two weeks ago we meet as a team and went through the entire data set. That’s when we came to the conclusion that we definitively found water.”

Colaprete said they also found signatures of other compounds as well, including sodium and carbon dioxide, which they are still analyzing.

While earlier findings this year of water on the Moon with the Moon Mineralogy Mapper on the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft compared the lunar regolith to being drier than deserts on Earth, at Cabeus crater, there appears to be more.

“If you were standing on the 20 meter ‘beach,’ of the crater we created from the impact, it is wetter than some deserts on Earth,” Colaprete said.

Since the impacts, the LCROSS science team has been working almost nonstop analyzing the huge amount of data the spacecraft collected. The team concentrated on data from the satellite’s spectrometers, which provide the most definitive information about the presence of water. A spectrometer examines light emitted or absorbed by materials that helps identify their composition.

Data from the ultraviolet/visible spectrometer taken shortly after impact showing emission lines (indicated by arrows). These emission lines are diagnostic of compounds in the vapor/debris cloud. Credit: NASA

Data from the ultraviolet/visible spectrometer taken shortly after impact showing emission lines (indicated by arrows). These emission lines are diagnostic of compounds in the vapor/debris cloud. Credit: NASA

The 95 liters was the amount of what was in the field of view of the spectrometers. To find out how much total water is inside the crater will take a “reconstruction” of the crater by the team. “We need to take the amount of ejecta, along with the size of crater and reconstruct the event to understand how it all fits back in the ground to understand everything in its entirety,” said Colaprete. “We know it was important to the public for us to come out with the results, and to provide some sort of quantifiable amount but we still have a lot of work to do to see the total picture.”

The impact created by the LCROSS Centaur upper stage rocket created a two-part plume of material from the bottom of the crater. The first part was a high angle plume about 10-12 meters across of vapor and fine dust and the second a lower angle ejecta curtain of heavier material. This material has not seen sunlight in billions of years.

Colaprete said the crater floor is normally about -230 C, but the impact heated things up to about 1000 K, or 700 C, which is cold for an impact, but what was expected for the low density Centaur rocket that slammed into the Cabeus Crater.

Where the water came from is yet to be determined, whether it was delivered there by comets and meteorite hits or if some process within the Moon or on the surface is creating the water.

Mike Wargo, NASA’s chief lunar scientist, said the cold traps in the permanently shadowed craters of the Moon are like the dusty attics or junk drawers of the solar system. “They collect stuff from the whole evolution of the solar system, at least form the past few billion years. We’re only just begun to tap into our understanding.”

“This has really turned our understanding of lunar water on its head,” said Greg Delory. We should keep our minds open of what this is telling us. It’s not Apollo’s Moon, its our Moon.”

Source: NASA press conference
For more information see NASA’s press release

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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
J. Major
Member
November 13, 2009 1:58 PM

Anyone else see a face in that crater photo? Eerie!

It’s the ghost of Kaguya….

tacitus
Member
November 13, 2009 2:07 PM

Is that U.S. gallons or imperial gallons?

smile

Excellent finding, though the comment “wetter than some deserts” puts the finding into perspective. We’re not talking blocks of ice here.

Aqua4U
Member
November 13, 2009 11:50 AM

NOW I’m getting excited! This is awesome news… WATER for fuel and breathing and growing plants and fish and…

Lets talk extraction technology….

Aqua4U
Member
November 13, 2009 12:03 PM
cantman
Member
cantman
November 13, 2009 12:51 PM

I can see it now….”La Lune Crater Water, now on your grocers shelves!”

microverses
Member
microverses
November 13, 2009 1:54 PM

aqua – let’s leave it be! we’re obviously inept with ‘our own’ resources, let’s leave the rest be. Otherwise we’ll just end up ruining the moon as well.

My how things can change. I guess the man in the moon has been drinking this water to wash down all that cheese!!!

jimmNJ
Member
jimmNJ
November 13, 2009 2:26 PM

So when are we going to send a Rover in there to look around?

Don Alexander
Member
Don Alexander
November 13, 2009 2:50 PM

So, is there already a thread over at Godlike Productions claiming the water was in a tank on the Centaur and that it is a all a BIG GOVERNMENT LIE??

wink

Very cool result.

Mr. Man
Member
Mr. Man
November 13, 2009 3:22 PM

Yay! I feel like the more we look for water on the moon, the more we find. This will all make future lunar bases that much simpler!
smile

solrey
Member
November 13, 2009 4:52 PM
Don Alexander Says: November 13th, 2009 at 2:50 pm So, is there already a thread over at Godlike Productions claiming the water was in a tank on the Centaur and that it is a all a BIG GOVERNMENT LIE?? Sarcasm, nice. Actually, there has been a thread on TB forum since Sep. 18, where the focus has been on chemical reactions. http://www.thunderbolts.info/forum/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2402 I talked about less than 0.1% water, which happens to be about what was found in the newly discovered hydration cycle, and how the impact would produce water and/or OH via chemical reactions. Although over time water could accumulate from chemical reactions, and that was mentioned in the briefing. I predicted an abundance of sodium and… Read more »
Aqua4U
Member
November 13, 2009 6:45 PM

“Where the water came from is yet to be determined, whether it was delivered there by comets and meteorite hits or if some process within the Moon or on the surface is creating the water.”

How about: “The Moon is a big sponge that absorbs electrically charged particles given out by the Sun. These particles interact with the oxygen present in some dust grains on the lunar surface, producing water. This discovery, made by the ESA-ISRO instrument SARA onboard the Indian Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, confirms how water is likely being created on the lunar surface.”

Aqua4U
Member
November 13, 2009 7:33 PM

Otay… so solar panels are located in permanently lit locations. The collected energy is beamed via microwaves to a reflector mounted on a roving, Automated Materials Extraction Platform. DON’T walk into the beam! The reflector directs and refocus’ the beam into the soil substrate below. The AMEP, when processing is encapsulated in a retractable umbrella-like bubble. The central support is a retractable column. The ‘umbrella’ dome helps collect liberated oxygen and other gases. The ‘umbrella’ dome’s flexible bottom conforms to any terrain.

Aqua4U
Member
November 13, 2009 7:47 PM

Turbo-molecular vacuum pump filters anyone?

Electromagnetic filters are used in conjunction with to micro filters to separate out magnetic dust particles from collected gases. The particles are collected for further processing. H3 in particular..

Aqua4U
Member
November 13, 2009 7:54 PM

Oops… He3

solrey
Member
November 13, 2009 8:02 PM

aqua, that’s how I envision getting water out of the moon…making it on the fly, very much as you’ve described.
But I’m concerned about one day viewing the moon thru my scope (or future generations doing the same) and seeing it littered with production facilities. sad

Spoodle58
Member
November 14, 2009 3:13 AM

The real interesting thing about all this is water can be found on the moon, chances are its in a lot more places we would not expect.

This in turn boasts the chances of life elsewhere also although I would be jumping the gun to say lunar life exists. smile

clament
Member
clament
November 14, 2009 7:52 AM

This’s the 2nd time i read this post, em…i’m not genius enough to see water on the picture, but on the other hand, i do saw some ‘faces’ on there…anyone realizes it? cheers!

Spoodle58
Member
November 14, 2009 9:11 AM

Hi clament, the water is detected by a device called a spectrometer (google this for more information, one of astronomy’s best tools) and shown on the graphs below the picture.

The picture just shows a cloud of dust (see image inset, center) from the impact, this dust contains the water that was detected.

clament
Member
clament
November 14, 2009 9:35 AM

Thanks for your explanation Spoodle58, so the ‘face’ i saw was actually the ‘mist’ on the moon : )

solrey
Member
November 14, 2009 10:18 AM

clament, the ‘face’ (reminds me of the muppet show) is from shadow and light across the rugged terrain, the impact plume is that faint fuzzy patch coming out of the shadow, above the winking ‘eye’ to the left. The fuzzy plume reminds me of some dso’s when viewed through a small scope.

That face looks awfully familiar, though.

wink

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