Created a map of water deposits on the Moon

Researchers from NASA have created a new map showing possible water deposits near the south pole of the Moon. For this, they used data obtained by the recently “retired” SOFIA flying observatory.

The data available to scientists suggest that the Moon may contain significant reserves of water in the form of fractions of water ice in its regolith. It is believed that their bulk is contained at the bottom of eternally shaded craters located near the south pole of the Moon.

The issue of precise identification of lunar ice deposits plays an important role for space agencies. They could be a valuable help for the inhabitants of future lunar settlements. 

To map their distribution, scientists focused on studying infrared radiation reflected from the lunar surface. The SOFIA flying observatory helped them in this. The working altitude of its flight was 13-14 km. This is above the bulk of water vapor in the earth’s atmosphere, absorbing infrared radiation. Due to this, about 85% of this spectral range was available to the observatory.

One of the fragments of a map compiled by the SOFIA Observatory showing the location of water ice deposits on the Moon. Source: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio/Ernie Wright

During the subsequent analysis of the data, the researchers were able to make a map. It covers about a quarter of the visible side of the Moon in the area from 60° south to the south pole. The colors on the map correspond to the concentration of ice. Its greatest indicators correlate with the shadow areas of the lunar surface. 

According to scientists, SOFIA data will help to better understand the mechanisms that ensured the accumulation of water on the Moon. They will also help in the selection of landing sites for future Artemis expeditions.

Recall that the SOFIA Observatory made its last flight in September 2022.

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