Astronomers have long been aware of water ice present on the surface of the Moon, but it had only ever been discovered in deep, perpetually shadowed impact craters at its poles. That water could be exposed to intense solar radiation in Luna’s practically nonexistent atmosphere and not boil off into space seemed unlikely, at the very least. However, a recent mission by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed just that, the space agency announced on Monday.
“Today, we are announcing the important discovery by SOFIA, that the previously detected hydrogen on the sunlit surface is located in water molecules,” Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, said during a press conference. “This discovery raises new questions about how water is created on the surface of the moon, and how it can persist in the harsh airless sunlight conditions of the lunar surface.”
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