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

LCROSS Confirms “Buckets” of Water on the Moon

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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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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30 Responses

  1. J. Major says:

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

    It’s the ghost of Kaguya….

  2. tacitus says:

    Is that U.S. gallons or imperial gallons?

    🙂

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

  3. Aqua says:

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

    Lets talk extraction technology….

  4. cantman says:

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

  5. microverses says:

    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!!!

  6. jimmNJ says:

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

  7. Don Alexander says:

    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??

    😉

    Very cool result.

  8. Mr. Man says:

    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!
    🙂

  9. solrey says:

    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 more fine dust than expected, which was accurate. A chemical makeup similar to comets, which they hinted at during the press conference.
    I talked about a piezoelectric discharge triggered by the force of impact possibly producing an electrostatic signature. Nothing too outrageous there.

  10. Aqua says:

    “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.”

  11. Aqua says:

    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.

  12. Aqua says:

    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..

  13. Aqua says:

    Oops… He3

  14. solrey says:

    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. 🙁

  15. Spoodle58 says:

    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. 🙂

  16. clament says:

    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!

  17. Spoodle58 says:

    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.

  18. clament says:

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

  19. solrey says:

    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.

    http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/File:YipYip.jpg

    😉

  20. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    Buckets and buckets! Lakdawalla at Planetary Society points out that the transport value of 100 kg water on the Moon is 88 MUSD, while LCROSS cost 80 MUSD. It’s a win! 😀

    a piezoelectric discharge triggered by the force of impact possibly producing an electrostatic signature.

    That is too outrageous. (o.O) Where is the empirical evidence of such impact effects in dust (aka regolith)?

    Also, there was no spectroscopic evidence for purported “chemical reactions”. And again, no evidence of massive amounts of water produced in plenty of similar impacts here on Earth. So no go.

    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.

    Well, it’s complicated. 😮

    Both solar wind ions and neutrals will impact with enough energy to ionize and/or cause many reactions – 100s of eV, AFAIU, as opposed to a few eV. This is sputtering, primarily a kinetic effect, with the influx solar wind hydrogen participating in the reactions themselves, aka reactive sputtering.

    If there was no kinetic energy swamping the ion energy, there would be more of a one-to-one correspondence between the hydrogen of “these particles” and the resulting water.

  21. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    “the ion energy” – the ionization energy,

  22. Aqua says:

    Oops again… that’s 3He.

    solrey… Methinks most of the activity generated by collecting water extracted by the method I mention above, would not be easily seen from Earth as those locations will be in shadowed craters located at or near the poles. By the time a large enough area were processed TO BE visible from Earth in a telescope, perhaps those activities would be restricted to the far side?

  23. Aqua says:

    “And again, no evidence of massive amounts of water produced in plenty of similar impacts here on Earth. So no go.”

    Think about Ice Ages… It now appears that SOL may create water molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere MUCH more efficiently than in the lunar regolith… If that be the case, as new evidence now seems to point, then when SOL’s production of ionized hydrogen increases, or if there is say, a ‘turnover’ of SOL’s internal layers.. it IS possible that an increased release of ionized hydrogen would react with the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere to create vast amounts of water.

  24. solrey says:

    @torbjornlarsson

    There has been no information given, so far, regarding polarization data from the photometer, which would indicate an electrostatic potential. Considering that LRO detected iron in the plume, from an earlier report, and there are silicates in the regolith, if they are bonded to form dielectric layers, then the force of an impact could produce a piezoelectric discharge. Pretty straightforward, actually.

    They still have a lot of work to do, sorting through all the data, so there will eventually be a plethora of details forthcoming.

    They did mention in the press conference that there were changes in spectrometer readings that indicated chemical reactions taking place.

    The Earth and the moon are totally different environments with different surface compositions and atmospheres, so trying to say that no impacts on Earth have produced water has nothing to do with whether or not water is produced, via impact induced chemical reactions, on the moon. Additionally, you don’t know that there has never been an impact on Earth that produced water from chemical reactions.

    Water is a by-product of common acid/base neutralization reactions, and all the ingredients for that reaction are available at the impact site.
    Considering the veritable chemical soup that was detected, the probability for chemical reactions is quite high actually.
    They also found CH4 and CO2. CH4 + 2 O2 will produce CO2 and 2 H2O.
    Of course there is always the basic 2 H2 + O2 = 2 H2O
    There are many ways to produce water.

  25. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    @ Solrey

    Yes, I already know, You need electric currents, and magnetic fields, and EU to do it…

    Perhaps applying the EU H-r Diagram might be useful too. You know where water appear in the bottom right hand corner!

    Such grand insight from a humble electrician… I’m really impressed! Not.

  26. solrey says:

    Yo, crumb. While I may also be a humble electrician (and more), my degree is in aerospace technology. Being humble is a virtue, you should try it sometime.
    I believe even acknowledging such immature ridicule with a retort is now a thing of the past.
    Ahhhhhh

    For the rest that might be interested…

    I suggest starting by looking at the information in the following link from NASA…The moon and the magnetotail:

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/moonmars/features/magnetotail_080416.html

    The scenario the above article describes is a “diaphanous wind” and “dust storms” between the sunlit and “night” sides, along a band (likely ~300km – 400km wide on average, or about 10% of the moons diameter, imo) that follows the terminator around the entire pole to pole circumference of the surface. This “wind” of electrons and electro-statically charged dust grains can be classified as an electric current sheet, which hugs the surface across the terminator band. I’ll describe it as the Terminator Current Sheet. It’s the region where transient lunar phenomena occur.

    During the time the moon is within the magnetotail, the TCS has measured voltage potentials of 200v – 1000v. They mention that when outside of the magnetotail there are fewer electrons available to the “night” side, so (imo) the average voltage potential would be less, and fluctuate less severely, potentials are probably on the order of averaging ~ 100v, but the point is that it’s always there to some degree. With the sphere of the moon rotating through the TCS, like a globe spinning in a stationary frame, the higher latitudes towards the poles will be within the band of the TCS more frequently, and even constantly in the band, above a certain latitude. The permanently shadowed craters in these latitudes would accumulate a thicker layer (~1-2cm, imo) of these migrating grains and particles, than other regions of the surface (~2-3mm as detected as part of the “hydration cycle”) that receive at least some sunlight, where they can be “sputtered” from the surface more readily than they are in shadows.

    Grains of iron (Fe was detected in the plume by LRO) bonded with silicates form dielectric layers in the regolith and subsurface strata, which release ions and electrons under the force of sudden compression. That’s a piezoelectric discharge. It would be relatively weak, but enough to add to the mechanical forces of impact to break atomic/molecular bonds producing free atomic/molecular ions, and electrons, which are energized by the electro-magnetic pulse that helped free them, to initiate chemical bonding/reactions, while fracturing some of the material into micron sized grains. The result would be a central column of vapor from reactions, electrostatically charged micron sized dust, and grains of accumulated surface material mentioned above, along with larger and heavier material thrown out around the perimeter. The central column of micronized dust and vapor reaction products would form in a matter of micro-seconds, and be accelerated by a combination of mechanical and weak electromagnetic forces. Charged dust grains would be suspended longer before settling out, than would non-charged grains influenced by gravity alone. Some chemical reaction chains could continue for several seconds after the initial burst of reactions.

    What was observed?
    A strong UV flash on impact. (NASA: “We aren’t sure what that means”) Piezoelectric discharge might be what that means and that UV flash, from sodium I believe, could be evidence to support it.
    A rather complex chemical soup, including water vapor, sodium (abundances of Na were a bit of a surprise to NASA, which I predicted btw), carbon dioxide, and possibly methane. I expected a comet like mix of volatile and organic chemicals, and NASA mentioned it was much like a comet, and/or some asteroids. Yeah, I know, previous ancient impacts could deposit similar materials.
    A central ejection column of fine dust (finer than expected by NASA, I believe) and vapor that rose more than twice (30km+) as high as predicted by NASA( ~15km). A curtain of heavier material thrown to the sides (which is expected balistically in most impacts anyways) The dust column remained aloft for about four times as long as predicted by NASA. I expected a more energetic impact than NASA predicted, as well as lingering electrostatic dust.
    The timeline of the spectrographic data indicate ongoing chemical reactions (NASA mentioned this as part of the data to be examined closer). A very small percentage were actual icy grains so far as they can determine, suspected to be water ice, and the rest of the detected water/hydroxyl groups were in vapor form. I expected that as well, although I’m saying that most of the vapors are by-products of chemical reactions rather than sublimation, and the icy grains are accumulated from molecules and grains migrating across the TCS, of which the water/hydroxyls, among some other molecules, were created by reactions with solar plasma stream protons and silicates in the lunar regolith.

    There’s nothing magical in what I’m proposing. It’s just a different way of putting known physics (geology, chemistry, electromagnetic and kinetic), and observed processes together into a unique explanation that goes beyond a simplistic, purely mechanical description akin to… projectile hit dirt, dirt fly up, dirt fall down, wow look maybe ice in dat dirt, dudurtdudurt.
    😉

    Actually, I give the LCROSS mission a 10/10 for accuracy and data collection, and their ingenuity in successful utilization of a relatively small budget.
    I think what they accomplished was brilliant.

  27. IVAN3MAN says:

    solrey:

    … sodium (abundances of Na were a bit of a surprise to NASA, which I predicted btw)…

    Well, Mr. Mastermind, my giddy aunt could have ‘predicted’ that, too, since it was reported more than ten years ago on BBC News. 🙄

  28. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    @ sorley

    Be nice and brief. Don’t advertise your stuff, or promote your personal theories. We’ll delete any comments that break these policies.

    Sure sounds like it to me,,,,

    Also, why did I know you that you would say there is some kind of EU connection here… Voilà, and in reply, on cue, up it pops!

    Unbelievable!

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