Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIAOPEN ACCESS 

C. I. Honniball, P. G. Lucey, S. Li, S. Shenoy, T. M. Orlando, C. A. Hibbitts, D. M. Hurley & W. M. Farrell

Nature Astronomy , 1–7


“Widespread hydration was detected on the lunar surface through observations of a characteristic absorption feature at 3 µm by three independent spacecraft1,2,3. Whether the hydration is molecular water (H2O) or other hydroxyl (OH) compounds is unknown and there are no established methods to distinguish the two using the 3 µm band4. However, a fundamental vibration of molecular water produces a spectral signature at 6 µm that is not shared by other hydroxyl compounds5. Here, we present observations of the Moon at 6 µm using the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). Observations reveal a 6 µm emission feature at high lunar latitudes due to the presence of molecular water on the lunar surface. On the basis of the strength of the 6 µm band, we estimate abundances of about 100 to 400 µg g−1 H2O. We find that the distribution of water over the small latitude range is a result of local geology and is probably not a global phenomenon. Lastly, we suggest that a majority of the water we detect must be stored within glasses or in voids between grains sheltered from the harsh lunar environment, allowing the water to remain on the lunar surface.”