In Brief

Nasa discovers first signs of ice on moon’s surface

Frozen patches could be a valuable source of water for future explorers

Nasa has discovered the first patches of ice on the moon’s poles, a source of water that could potentially be used on manned missions to the moon in future.

Astronomers at the US space agency used hi-tech image-scanning techniques that can differentiate between water types, such as ice patches and water that has been absorbed by soil, according to the Daily Mail

By scanning the moon’s poles with the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 satellite, the team of astronomers were able to identify numerous patches of ice on the surface, says the paper.

The moon’s most northern and southern points are not exposed to sunlight, meaning temperatures can reach as low as -163C.

Despite the harsh climate, astronomers claim that only 3.5% of the areas that never see sunlight contain ice sheets.

Most of the ice patches were discovered at the southern lunar pole around a “cluster of craters”, The Guardian says. These craters are named after famous astronomers and explorers, such as “Haworth, Shoemaker, Sverdrup and Shackleton.”

The findings were published on August 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which describes the discovery as “direct and definitive” evidence of water that could one day be used as an “in situ resource” in future explorations of the moon.

The discovery marks another success for the M3 instrument, says CNet. The scanner helped astronomers identify traces of water absorbed into the moon’s soil in 2009.

While the discovery of the frozen patches isn’t the first sign of water on the moon, it’s the first time astronomers have found traces of ice on the moon’s surface. 

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