Finding Water on the Moon

lcross_impactTomorrow morning, at 4:30am PDT, the LCROSS “package” will slam into a permanently dark crater near the South Pole of the moon, one of the coldest places in the solar system. It will be followed, four minutes later, by the¬†shepherding probe will fly through the dust plume raised by the impact before it hits the lunar surface nearby.

Telescopes around Earth and in orbit will be watching to find any clues of OH bounds, indicating water. Passive techniques have found indications of water throughout the moon, save along the equator (where the Apollo missions landed, unfortunately). Current thoughts are that hydrogen ions from the solar wind hit the lunar surface, combine with oxygen in the regolith, and form water until direct exposure to the sun sublimates it.

But water should be most common in the permanently shadowed craters at the poles – some estimates have it up to 2% of the soil material there. And extracting the water would be easy. Just microwave it.

Wow. I’m getting up early for this, even though it only means following the impact on NASA TV. I’m a geek, what can I say?

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