November 14, 2009
Buckets of Water On the Moon
images from NASA LCROSS; imact plume left and Centaur crater seen in IR, right
Tony Colaprete, the project scientist of the LCROSS mission, held up a two-gallon plastic bucket Friday and said the probe had detected a dozen buckets worth of water during the impact into the polar crater Cabeus. Another team member said this is not your father's Moon; its much more dynamic and exciting than we used to think. The LCROSS team has the right to be pleased - they confirmed what had been speculated about since 1960 - there is water frozen in the floors of lunar polar craters. But I think they and everyone else were disappointed at how small the impact plume was, and I am surprised at the small amount of water to come from a 20-30 m wide crater. Mostly, I disagree with the statement that the Moon is more dynamic and exciting than previously thought. I have always thought the Moon was exciting, but I still don't think it is dynamic. We don't know the exact processes for the water's accumulation in polar craters, but the original 1960 suggestion that it is from comets that hit the Moon, releasing water vapor that collected in the perpetually dark craters, is still likely. The Moon is on the receiving end and not in itself very dynamic. It's still exciting, independent of the water.
Saturday update: More hyperbole - Colaprete is quoted as saying, The Moon is alive. There is no evidence for life that has been reported.
Yesterday's LPOD: No Longer Straight
Tomorrow's LPOD: Hills, Troughs And a Collapse