4.3 Article

Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA


Volume 5, Issue 2, Pages -


DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01222-x




  1. Universities Space Research Association, Inc. (USRA) under NASA [NNA17BF53C]
  2. Deutsches SOFIA Insitut (DSI) under DLR [50 OK 0901]

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Observations on the Moon at 6 mu m wavelength region by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) revealed a signature of molecular water, distinguishing it from other forms of hydration. The estimated water abundance ranges between 100 to 400 mu g g(-)(1) at high latitudes, potentially trapped within impact glasses or in between grains.
Widespread hydration was detected on the lunar surface through observations of a characteristic absorption feature at 3 mu m by three independent spacecraft(1-3). Whether the hydration is molecular water (H2O) or other hydroxyl (OH) compounds is unknown and there are no established methods to distinguish the two using the 3 mu m band(4). However, a fundamental vibration of molecular water produces a spectral signature at 6 mu m that is not shared by other hydroxyl compounds(5). Here, we present observations of the Moon at 6 mu m using the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). Observations reveal a 6 mu m emission feature at high lunar latitudes due to the presence of molecular water on the lunar surface. On the basis of the strength of the 6 mu m band, we estimate abundances of about 100 to 400 mu g g(-1) H2O. We find that the distribution of water over the small latitude range is a result of local geology and is probably not a global phenomenon. Lastly, we suggest that a majority of the water we detect must be stored within glasses or in voids between grains sheltered from the harsh lunar environment, allowing the water to remain on the lunar surface. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) looked at the Moon in the 6 mu m wavelength region and found a signature of molecular water, distinguishing it from other forms of hydration. The authors estimate water abundances between 100 and 400 mu g g(-)(1) at high latitudes, trapped within impact glasses or possibly in between grains.


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Patrick Kudlacek
It is not a true surprise to find water on the moon. After all, the moon was once part of the earth. How the water survived the harsh environment is very interesting.


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