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Moon Begins Spilling Secrets

18 Sep 2009, 17:03 UTC
Moon Begins Spilling Secrets
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NASA' s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has settled into a circular 31-mile-high orbit around the moon to begin mapping the surface and looking for minerals. Scientists have been expecting to find hydrogen, which may mean there is frozen water on the moon. But if the early results are an indication of what is to come, the mission may end up generating more questions than it answers.For starters, LRO has indeed found hydrogen, but some of the locations where it has turned up are places that, on the surface anyway, are not cold enough for ice to exist. "There is hydrogen near the lunar south polar region," LRO scientist Richard Vondrak told reporters yesterday, but added that it is not confined to craters that never see sunlight. Those shadowed craters turn out to be among the coldest places in solar system, with temperatures just 33 degrees above absolute zero, or minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists theorize that the hydrogen outside the craters may be coming from buried ice. "You may have had water deposited, or some other hydrogen-bearing compound like methane or ammonia, that was deposited (by) a comet or some other event and then it was promptly buried," Vondrak said. More ...

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