For the first time in history astronomers have found definitive evidence of water-ice on the moon’s surface, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers have long speculated that Earth’s natural satellite has ice on its surface. However, this is the first official confirmation. The frozen liquid sits at the north and south poles and is likely ancient, BBC News reports.
To find the ice, a team of international astronomers analyzed data gathered by India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. That showed the distribution is quite scattered. Most of the ice at the lunar south pole is in craters, and at the north pole it is much more widespread.
Those findings come from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard Chandrayaan, which identified three specific water-ice signatures on the moon.
Not only did it get the tell-tale reflective properties associated with ice, but it also measured the way its molecules absorb infrared light. That is important because it shows the substance is solid and not vapor.
“The abundance and distribution of ice on the Moon are distinct from those on other airless bodies in the inner solar system such as Mercury and Ceres, which may be associated with the unique formation and evolution process of our Moon,” wrote the researchers, according to Fox News.
Though the moon is quite hot during the day, ice can exist because, as the axis tilts, parts of the body never see sunlight.
The new finding supports past evidence that suggested the presence of surface ice at the Moon’s south pole. That is important because, if there is a substantial amount of ice, astronauts could one day harvest it during space missions. It may even help foster a future lunar base, and it could potentially be turned into hydrogen for rocket fuel as well.