Signs of Water Discovered in Moon’s Shackleton Crater

Signs of Water Discovered in Moon’s Shackleton Crater

Signs of Water Discovered in Moon’s Shackleton Crater

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June 21 2012 7:15 PM

Signs of Water Discovered in Moon’s Shackleton Crater

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New data suggest the moon's dark side craters may hold water ice.

Photo by TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/GettyImages

The moon has always been compared to cheese, but lately it’s looking a bit icy, too.

For the first time, Scientists may have confirmed the presence of water ice in the shadowy depths of a lunar crater. Frozen water may exist in the moon’s polar craters because their interiors lie in perpetual darkness, unexposed to the sun's warming rays. Scanning the moon's southern Shackleton crater with infrared laser light from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers found its floor to be more reflective than nearby craters.

That could be water ice accounting for as much as 20 percent of the giant crater's volume. But Fiji and Aquafina may want to wait for more proof before building moon ships. The LRO's lasers found Shackleton’s sloped sides, which shouldn’t hold ice, to be even more reflective that its floor. That could mean other factors are causing the crater's brightness, and no water is present.

Whatever the reflections mean, scientists say future studies of the crater and its neighbors are needed to see if we've discovered a lunar lake, or if it’s all just a moon mirage.

Video by Paca Thomas.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.