London, December 23 (ANI): New observations from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) suggest that we might be looking in the wrong places for water on the Moon.
In October, NASA's LCROSS spacecraft found water when it crashed into a crater called Cabeus that never gets any sunlight.
But, according to a report in New Scientist, new observations from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) suggest that many of the permanently shadowed regions near the south pole are dry and several potentially wet regions are sunlit.
The observations come from the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) experiment, which looks for possible water deposits by measuring neutrons emitted from the moon.
Water or other hydrogen-bearing compounds reduce the number of fast neutrons.
LEND examined 37 permanently shadowed craters near the south pole and found that only three of them - Cabeus, Faustini, and Shoemaker - showed significant amounts of hydrogen.
Several illuminated regions also appear to be hydrogen rich.
"I think we have a paradigm-busting set of observations here," said Jim Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
LEND's principal scientist, Igor Mitrofanov of the Russian Space Research Institute, reported these "neutron suppressed regions" last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
He believes that a half-metre-thick layer of dry soil may cover a layer of dirty ice, preventing the ice from evaporating into space.
He and his colleagues calculate that the icy layer, which may have been delivered to the moon by asteroids or comets, could contain concentrations of water as high as 3 to 5 per cent.
LRO is expected to continue gathering data for two more years, and LEND's results will grow more accurate over time.
"I think our story will be a lot sharper by next summer," Garvin said. (ANI)