'Rain' is different on other worlds

Last week, I speculated about an announcement NASA was going to be making earlier this week in respect to the Moon.

Well, score one for the astronomy columnist.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, for short, has discovered water in the soil on the sunlit portion of the Moon.

One of the places SOFIA detected the water was in Clavius Crater, a crater in the southern hemisphere that is visible from Earth.

"Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million - roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water - trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface," NASA said in a press release.

NASA previously had been unable to determine whether it was water, or the compound hydroxyl present on the surface.

A word of caution, though. NASA notes that the Moon is still about 100 times drier than the Sahara on Earth. In other words, there's not that much water to go around.

Still, though, the discovery is interesting because it raises two questions: Where did the water come from, and will there be more?

To the first, I suppose that it could have been deposited by collisions from meteorites and other objects. The water has likely been there for quite some time. The Moon has a thin atmosphere, though no breathable air, so there's no way to replenish the water that we know of.

As for the second question, who knows? When humans again step foot on the Moon, hopefully in a handful of years, we will likely be exploring it more in depth than we ever have before. There are likely many secrets and unknowns we will uncover.

But the fact that water is indeed on the Moon is a good sign, and hopefully a harbinger of more.

Joe Malan is presentation editor and astronomy writer for the Enid News & Eagle. Email him at jmalan@enidnews.com.

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