24 Nov, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

NASA just announced that water was discovered on the moon, confirming the Biblical description of “upper waters.”

Lunar Water Confirmed

On Monday, NASA announced that there may be more water on the Moon than previously thought, so much, in fact, that future visits to earth’s satellite may even be able to use it. 

“For the first time, water has been confirmed to be present on the sunlit surface of the moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate during Monday’s press conference. “We had indications that H2O — the familiar water we know — might be present on the sunlit side of the moon. Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

Previous efforts in 2009 discovered deposits on the surface near the south pole of the Moon that may have been water but scientists could not determine whether what they found was water, H2O (two molecules of hydrogen that are bonded with one molecule of oxygen) or whether it was hydroxyl, OH (one molecule of hydrogen that is bonded to one molecule of oxygen). The ice was trapped in permanently shaded regions of the lunar surface that never receive sunlight. 

The announcement was based on two new studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy. The studies were based on data collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a robotic spacecraft orbiting the Moon since 2009 in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. The study concluded that “water ice is thought to be trapped in large permanently shadowed regions in the Moon’s polar regions, due to their extremely low temperatures.” Scientists determined that the moon could contain 15,000 square miles of permanently shadowed traps in a range of sizes that could preserve water ice.

“If you can imagine standing on the surface of the moon near one of its poles, you would see shadows all over the place,” said Paul Hayne, lead study author and assistant professor in the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, in a statement. “Many of those tiny shadows could be full of ice.”

“If we’re right, water is going to be more accessible for drinking water, for rocket fuel, everything that NASA needs water for,” Hayne said.

Data was also collected by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy airborne telescope (SOFIA) which is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a 2.7-meter telescope inside its fuselage while flying at 43,000 feet which carries it above 99% of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere.  The plane is equipped with a hatch at the rear to allow the telescope to view the heavens. This arrangement overcomes a major obstacle facing earthbound telescopes: atmospheric humidity which can interfere with the search for lunar water.

SOFIA: Airborne Telescope Provides Clear Picture

SOFIA observed the moon at a wavelength that revealed the signature of molecular water. They discovered water deposits in the Clavius Crater, one of the Moon’s largest craters, located in the high southern latitudes where they estimate water is present between 100 to 400 parts per million. In comparison, the Sahara desert has a hundred times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil. The lunar water is located inside grains or in between grains on the lunar surface which helps protect it from the moon’s harsh and irradiated environment.

Viewing the lunar surface in infrared, scientists on the SOFIA project determined that the surface deposits were predominantly H2O rather than hydroxyl. 

“The detection is very unique for molecular water,” says Shuai Li, a planetary scientist at the University of Hawaii and co-author on one of the new studies. The water signature was detected on the moon’s illuminated surface, where the molecule would be exposed to UV radiation and where temperatures fluctuate dramatically between dawn, noon and dusk. It’s somewhat surprising, but it’s conclusive. “Based on our knowledge, it cannot be anything else.”

Lunar Water Comes From Even Higher

Scientists believe the water arrived to the Moon as micrometeorites raining down on the lunar surface, carrying small amounts of water. Another possibility is there could be a two-step process whereby the Sun’s solar wind delivers hydrogen to the lunar surface and causes a chemical reaction with oxygen-bearing minerals in the soil to create hydroxyl. Meanwhile, radiation from the bombardment of micrometeorites could be transforming that hydroxyl into water.

“This is not puddles of water but instead water molecules that are so spread apart that they do not form ice or liquid water,” said Casey Honniball, the lead author of a study about the discovery.”Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space. Yet somehow we’re seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there.”

Biblical Account: Lower Waters Crying

For Bible scholars, the discovery does not come as a surprise since Genesis explicitly describes the “upper waters” as appearing on the first day of creation.

Hashem made the expanse, and it separated the water which was below the expanse from the water which was above the expanse. And it was so. Genesis 1:7

This point becomes even clearer when seen in Hebrew in which the word for ‘heaven’ (שמים shamayim) contains the word for water (מים) and may actually be a contraction of the words שם מים (sham mayim), meaning ‘water is there.’

Three verses later, God named the earth-bound waters that had been gathered together ימים (yammim; seas), echoing their heavenly counterpart.

Hashem called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of waters He called Seas. And Hashem saw that this was good. Genesis 1:10

The Zohar, one of the principal books of Jewish mysticism, described how the “lower waters”, the waters that were placed on earth instead of in heaven, were distraught by the separatio, perceiving it  as Divine rejection. The Zohar stated, “The lower waters cry and say ‘We too want to stand before the King!’”

In Midrash Rabbah, it is written that these oceanic tears were the source of the lower water’s saltiness, and, as such, salt became an integral part of the Temple service. This was explained by the medieval French Biblical commentator known by the acronym Rashi.

A covenant was made, in the days of creation, with the “lower waters,” that they will be offered up on the altar, in the salt brought with each offering, and in the water poured upon the altar on the festival of Sukkot.