Many were disappointed that there wasn’t a huge explosion when the
so-called bomb hit the moon. Perhaps many young would-be scientist
didn’t get that need thrill up their leg inspiration that something
more visual would have provided. Woe be it for the youthful science
fair entrant that isn’t patient when looking for instant results when
replicating Gregor Mendel’s hereditary experiments with garden peas.
A quick primer on what the "bombing the moon" experiment was supposed
to achieve can be found in this video clip. To find out what results
have been ascertained thus far, read below.
Last month when NASA’s LCROSS spacecraft hit the Moon and failed to
produce a bright flash, many observers thought the experiment was a
dud. Think again. NASA has announced that LCROSS discovered water at
the bottom of crater Cabeus near the Moon’s south pole.
The primary evidence is spectral. When LCROSS’s Centaur rocket hit
the ground, it produced a faint cloud of vapor. High above, the LCROSS
mothership analyzed the cloud using its near-infrared spectrometer.
Some of the bumps and wiggles in the spectrum perfectly match the
infrared signature of H2O:
See Graph Here
The red curve traces what the spectrum would have looked like if
the debris cloud had been made of pure water vapor. Points with error
bars are the actual data. Clearly, water is present, but that’s not
all. "Along with the water in Cabeus, there are hints of other
intriguing substances," says Anthony Colaprete, the mission’s principal
investigator the NASA’s Ames Research Center. "The possibility of
contamination from the Centaur rocket [has been] ruled out," so any
unidentified compounds are likely native to the Moon.
What are these mystery substances? Remember, LCROSS targeted a
"cold trap" where materials have been freezing and accumulating for
billions of years. It could be almost anything. Researchers are still
studying the spectra for clues. "Full understanding of the LCROSS data
may take some time," notes Colaprete. "The data are so rich."
Stay tuned for updates as the analysis continues.