Data from the SwRI-led LAMP instrument aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate that water molecules scattered on the surface of the Moon are more common at higher latitudes and tend to hop around as the surface heats up. Image credit: NASA/JPL/USGS
Using the Southwest Research Institute-led Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), scientists have observed water molecules moving around the dayside of the Moon. A paper recently published in Geophysical Research Letters describes how LAMP measurements of the sparse layer of molecules temporarily stuck to the surface helped characterise lunar hydration changes over the course of a day.
Up until the last decade or so, scientists thought the Moon was arid, with any water existing mainly as pockets of ice in permanently shaded craters near the poles. More recently, scientists have identified surface water in sparse populations of molecules bound to the lunar soil, or regolith. The amount and locations vary based on the time of day. This water is more common at higher latitudes and tends to hop around as the surface heats up.
“This is an important new result about lunar water, a hot topic as our nation’s space program returns to a ...