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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Water on the moon?

    Three … two … one … KABOOM!

    UA astronomers have plans to witness an astronomical explosion as NASA launches rockets onto the moon in the quest to prove the existence of ice in its polar craters.

    “”They’re going to crash that puppy into the moon,”” said Faith Vilas, director of the MMT Observatory said. “”This is meant to do it big. Do it and do it well.””

    Vilas said NASA is currently making an effort to return to the moon. As part of this effort they have set up a project named LCROSS, Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, that is currently searching for water that could be stored in the form of ice in the permanently shaded craters at the north and south poles of the moon.

    As part of this project, scheduled for Aug. 1, they will be impacting the moon with two rockets and observing the results.

    The UA’s MMT observatory was selected from a NASA competition for ground-based telescopes to observe the crash, Vilas said.

    “”We proposed and were accepted,”” Vilas said. “”We are all excited to be a part of this.””

    Vilas said MMT would be observing the shape of the plume caused by the rockets’ impact, and noting how it depletes.

    She said the shape and the way the plume depletes will give insight into the mineralogy of the material that is kicked up. They will also be observing the spectrums of light that will be reflected off the material.

    “”We are going to see variations of spectrum based on the mineralogy of the dust particles,”” Vilas said. “”If they are of a certain type of material that has been altered by the presence of water that would be an indication of water at the poles.””

    Vilas said there are theoretical studies that suggest that water has been trapped in the form of ice in craters at the poles of the moon.

    The team will be observing the results of the impact throughout its schedulednight. She said they are not certain if they will be able to prove the existence of ice, but a negative result is still a result.

    She said this project has significant importance because it could lead to alternative methods for human survival.

    “”If humankind goes back to the moon, finding water is going to be very useful, if there is a sufficient amount, to our survival,”” Vilas said. “”It helps us not have to import or create water.””

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