News & Opinion | March 11, 2019 2:40 pm

NASA Orbiter Cracks Mystery Behind Water on the Moon

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals new water data.

Moon Origin oldest rock
Apollo 8 view of earthrise over the moon. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

New data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has proved that there is water on the moon and that it moves in a delicate cycle, Digital Trends reports.

An instrument called the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) is attached to the LRO and detects tiny changes in a very thin layer of molecules on the Moon’s surface. For about a decade researchers have known there is water on the Moon, but weren’t sure how it moved from one location to the next.

Now, with data from the LAMP instrument, scientists know that the location and amount of water at any given spot on the Moon depends upon the time of day. At its warmest during lunar noon, the surface heats up and the water molecules are released into the atmosphere, either landing at the nearest coldest location or hanging around and then returning to the surface as the temperature drops.

“This is an important new result about lunar water, a hot topic as our nation’s space program returns to a focus on lunar exploration,” Dr. Kurt Retherford, the principal investigator of the LAMP instrument said in a statement. “We recently converted the LAMP’s light collection mode to measure reflected signals on the lunar dayside with more precision, allowing us to track more accurately where the water is and how much is present.”

Previously, scientists believed the “hopping” molecules were actually the result of light bouncing off the surface of the Moon, but LAMP has proved that conjecture wrong.