A team of scientists at NASA, while analyzing the database, transmitted by one the agency’s most powerful orbiter – Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – has stumbled upon the presence of frost on the lunar surface – a discovery which may open new windows for astronomers to track down the presence of life on the moon.
Is the moon fit for human habitation? This is a century-old question that has kept mystifying scientists across the world. Despite several technological advancements in the space industry, exploration of habitability of Earth’s only natural satellite has yet far-flung from reality. However, the recent discovery seems to change the entire scenario as one of NASA’s powerful observatories has detected the sign of frost presence on the lunar surface.
As highlighted by NASA in its latest press release, a team of researchers, by using data, collected from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), has identified some bright areas, located close to the craters near the moon’s the South Pole that is chilled enough to host frost on their surface. Though the clear sign of frost is yet to be discovered, the suspected frost is estimated to be located inside the craters where temperatures are running below minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 163 degrees Celsius – conditions under which water and ice can survive in iced condition for millions or sometimes billions of years.
The new evidence, as said by the researchers, is sourced from a detailed analysis that combined the surface temperatures of the Moon with data about how much sunlight is echoed off the lunar surface. The lunar frost seems to be erratic and slender; scientists expect them to be mingled with the surface layer of dust, soil, and small rocks, termed as the regolith. Researchers said they yet hadn’t witnessed any breadths of ice akin to a freezing pond or skating rink. In its place, they have detected the signs of surface frost which was completely unexpected for them. Cold traps found on moon’s surface are permanently dark areas and are located either on the surface of a deep crater or alongside a division of crater wall where the accessibility of direct sunlight is nil. Due to lack of sunshine, the temperatures in the region are running below minus 163 degrees Celsius, and under this condition, water and ice can persist for billion years.
According to Elizabeth Fisher, the lead author of the study, “We, while analysing the data collected LRO detected that the chilliest places near the South Pole of Moon are also the most dazzling regions of Moon which are brighter than we can ever expect from soil alone and this points towards the presence of surface frost on the moon.”
Understanding these conditions will help scientists deciphering a number of mysteries associated with the moon, its origin, atmosphere, and the habitability possibility on Moon.