Saturday science subject: Moon water 2: Aquatic boogaloo

— 4:32 PM on November 14, 2009

In September, we wrote about how a trio of science teams had discovered evidence of water on the Moon. As ScienceNow reports, NASA has now made an even more spectacular find. The agency's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which smashed into the Moon on October 9 with a disappointing lack of fireworks, uncovered a bonanza of H2O.

ScienceNow has the details:

All told, LCROSS detected about 100 kilograms of water, [LCROSS Principal Investigator Anthony Colaprete] said. It came from a 20-meter-wide crater maybe 3 meters deep, but he declined to guess how abundant water ice had been beneath the impact site. Team members must still calculate what portion of subsurface ice actually rose into view and could have been measured, Colaprete noted. "It would probably be safe to say it's wetter than the Atacama Desert," the driest place on Earth, he said. Some remote sensing had suggested about 1% water ice by volume in the upper 3 meters, which was regarded as a substantial amount. Impact modeler and LCROSS team member David Goldstein of the University of Texas, Austin, says 1% "is not inconsistent with what's been observed. I haven't convinced myself yet whether it's 0.1% or 10%. I think we'll work that out."

Researchers are also trying to determine where the water actually came from. ScienceNow writes that the LCROSS data "hint at the presence of" carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur dioxide, and methanol—the kinds of compounds that would be found on comets. So perhaps the Moon got its water from the alien bodies that have struck it over the millennia.

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