By Tim Binnall
A pair of potentially groundbreaking studies have confirmed the existence of water on the moon and found that it may be far more plentiful than previously thought. NASA announced the remarkable news, which comes by way of two newly published scientific papers, on a teleconference Monday afternoon. While the possible presence of water on the lunar surface was first put forward by researchers in 2009, these new studies have managed to settle the matter once and for all while also providing new insights into its nature and potential distribution.
The first study used data from NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), which is a modified Boeing 747 jet that possesses an infrared telescope designed to studies objects in space without the drawbacks of being Earthbound. While observing a sunlit crater on the lunar surface using the instrument, scientists were able to definitively spot a specific spectral signature which could have only come from water. They theorize that the material is "stored within glasses or in voids between grains sheltered from the harsh lunar environment" which allows it to remain on the surface of the moon.
Meanwhile, the second paper looked at cratered areas of the moon that are never exposed to sunlight and found that these so-called 'cold traps' are not only quite plentiful, but that they are also prime candidates for areas where long-frozen ice could be located. Amazingly, the team behind the research believes that a staggering 15,000 square miles of the lunar surface could contain these icy deposits of various size. Although the theory that 'cold traps' could contain rock-hard frozen water has yet to be confirmed, astronomers hope that, much like has now happened with the discovery of water on the moon, future research will be able to confirm the hypothesis.