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Moon rivers, wider than a mile...

The solar system is awash with water

Despite the relentless propaganda, we are now pretty sure that the Moon is not made of cheese and, in case there was any doubt, the ‘magnificent desolation’ experienced by the Apollo lunar astronauts – and the chunks of definitely non-cheese derived rock – definitely put those rumours to bed.

The Apollo missions also proved one other thing – the Moon is dry and lifeless. Any hope that the ‘Sea of Tranquility’ hid any of the runny stuff that gave its name was banished for good and the Moon officially became the driest (and most cheese free) place in the solar system. Then, in 2009, Nasa deliberately crashed one of their space

probes into a lunar crater whose interior never saw the light of the Sun. In the resulting plume of dust they detected the unmistakable signature of dihydrogen monoxide – that’s water to you and me. That report, like the first pee during a night of heavy drinking, opened the floodgates and those few ‘buckets’ of water became gallons in a single crater and those gallons became some 600million metric tonnes distributed across 40 craters, all in a couple of months.

The most recent finding were made my a Nasa experiment, Mini-Sar, onboard an Indian lunar explorer, Chandrayaan-1. Its radar located 40 craters near the lunar north pole each containing water ice at least two metres deep.

Water at those sort of levels could go a long way to making a manned lunar colony a reality because, leaving aside the obvious water-to-drink-and-grow-food-with-type-stuff, if you split that water into its component hydrogen and oxygen, you could have enough rocket fuel to launch dozens of Space Shuttles for decades.

Other discoveries have shown that water is not as unique to Earth as you might think (not that surprising considering hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe).

Last year Nasa’s Phoenix lander detected water on Mars and there are countless other wet-and-wild possibilities elsewhere in the solar system, if only we are able to ‘tap’ into them...

The Moon

Nasa’s LCROSS craft gave the first hints that there might be water on the moon when it slammed into the lunar surface last year. Its impact threw up a plume of debris containing enough water to fill about a dozen two gallon (7.6 litre) buckets.
Radar results from India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe, revealed 40 craters each containing water ice at least two metres deep. The findings revealed more than 600million tonnes of water spread across 40 craters

Europa

Perhaps the most famous watery body in the solar system, Jupiter’s moon harbours a substantial ocean of water, which – even though the moon is about the same size as Earths – might be some 100km (62miles) deep.
Europa is seen by some as being the best place to look for alien life with some suggesting that the water might contain enough oxygen to support fish-sized life

Ganymede

Jupiter’s largest moon also shows signs of hiding an ocean beneath its icy crust. The moon is large enough to for a radioactive core to act an internal heat source. Magnetic readings taken by Nasa’s Galileo probe has hinted that an this keeps the moon warm enough for a salty subterranean ocean to exist. Its smooth surface suggests that this periodically oozes to surface though fractures in the crust, resurfacing the moon

Enceladus

This tiny moon would be an unremarkable lump of ice if it wasn’t for a quirk in its orbit that sees it travelling in an ellipse. This means that in periods of its orbit it is subjected to an increasing and decreasing pull from Saturn’s gravity. This flexes the moon’s icy interior, creating This tiny moon would be an unremarkable lump of ice if it wasn’t for a quirk in its orbit that sees it travelling in an ellipse. This means that in periods of its orbit it is subjected to an increasing and decreasing pull from Saturn’s gravity. This flexes the moon’s icy interior, creating heat (like when you stretch and compress a squash ball) which melts its water ice, possibly creating an internal liquid ocean. This image (right), taken by Nasa’s Cassini probe, shows this water being vented into space in massive plumes

Titan

Saturn’s largest moon is one of the wonders of the solar system. As well as being the only known moon with an atmosphere, it is also the only body other than Earth to have liquid seas and lakes. Unfortunately for potential life, lakes are formed of liquid methane. However, the moon itself is made up of rock and water ice, and recent research suggests there could exist a substantial internal ocean of liquid water

Comets

These lumpy balls of water ice, frozen carbon dioxide and dust – often called dirty snowballs – originate in the far reaches of our solar system in a massive region called the Oort cloud. Sometimes the outer planets, such as Neptune, ‘kick’ comets out of the cloud and into the inner solar system.
About 3.8billion years ago – in a period called the ‘late heavy bombardment’ – a large number of comets were flung into the inner solar system.
It was during this period that much of the impact craters on our moon were formed. It is also thought that much of our own planet’s water was delivered by these comets. They may be responsible for much of the water recently located on the lunar surface

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