Reliable sources report that there will be a press conference at NASA HQ at 2:00 pm this Thursday featuring lunar scientist Carle Pieters from Brown University.
UPDATE: NASA and Science Journal Information and pictures
The topic of the press briefing will be a paper that will appear in this week’s issue of Science magazine wherein results from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) aboard Chandrayaan-1 will be revealed. The take home message: there is a lot of water on the Moon. Stay tuned. (H/T Transterrestrial) Water can exist at the lunar poles in the form of ice and could exist further underground in other locations. We will find out on Thursday on the particulars.
UPDATE: From Spaceref: Three articles will appear in Science Magazine Sept 24, 2009 – one paper each describing results on lunar observations from three spacecraft: Deep Impact aka EPOXI, Cassini, and Chandrayaan-1. Three different spacecraft – three different instruments – all saying the same thing about the presence of water and other materials on the Moon.
The EPOXI paper says that water has been “unequivocally” confirmed and that “the entire lunar surface is hydrated during at least some portions of the lunar day”.
In another paper, previously unreleased 1999 flyby data from Cassini shows hydroxyl concentrations on “the sunlit face of the Moon”. Water was detected in concentrations as high as “10 to 1,000 parts per million” and according to the paper “Regardless of its origin, water is found on the lunar surface in areas previously thought to have been depleted in volatiles.”
The Chandrayaan-1 paper says “data suggests that the formation and retention of OH and H2O is an ongoing surficial process. OH/H2O production processes may feed polar cold traps and make the lunar regolith a candidate source of volatiles for human exploration.”
This Mini-RF image from NASA’s powerful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter shows radar imagery of the lunar south pole, a potential reservoir for hidden water ice, in new images released Sept. 17, 2009. Credit: NASA/APL/LPI
Nature News says: “Results soon to be published… will show detailed spectra confirming that, indeed, the polar regions of the moon are chockfull of water-altered minerals.”
Two impacts are planned October 9 around 7:30 a.m. Eastern time in the region of a crater called Cabeus-A near the Moon’s south pole.
The mission has two parts:
1. Fire a projectile (part of an Atlas rocket) at the moon and throw up a debris cloud. The mai satellite flies through that, sampling as it goes.
2. The full satellite itself crashes into the moon, throwing up a larger debris cloud – this one visible from Earth. Again, scientists can look for signs of water in it.
It’s not a lot of water. If you took a two-liter soda bottle of lunar dirt, there would probably be a medicine dropperful of water in it, said University of Maryland astronomer Jessica Sunshine, one of the scientists who discovered the water. Another way to think of it is if you want a drink of water, it would take a baseball diamond’s worth of dirt, said team leader Carle Pieters of Brown University. “It’s sort of just sticking on the surface,” Sunshine said. “We always think of the moon as dead and this is sort of a dynamic process that’s going on.”
More interesting, the amount of absorption — and thus the quantity of water — varied over time. That suggests the water is being created when protons from the solar wind slam into the lunar surface. The collisions may free oxygen atoms in the minerals and allow them to recombine with protons and electrons to form water.
Lori M. Feaga, a research scientist at the University of Maryland who is a member of the team that analyzed the Deep Impact data, said this process would work only to about one millimeter into the lunar surface. If correct, that would not give future astronauts much to drink.
“You would have to scrape the area of a baseball field or a football field to get one quart of water,” she said
The Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) is one of two instruments that NASA is contributing to India’s first mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-1 (meaning “Lunar Craft” in ancient Sanskrit), which launched on October 22, 2008. M3 is a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that will provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution, revealing the minerals of which it is made.
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