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NASA Moon Space Science

NASA Says Moon Has More Water Than Great Lakes 255

Posted by samzenpus
from the water-and-cheese dept.
jerryjamesstone writes "The US Great Lakes have some competition: the moon. Yes, that old thing in the sky may hold more than all of the water contained in the Great Lakes, according to a NASA-funded study. From the article: 'Scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory in Washington, along with other scientists across the nation, determined that the water was likely present very early in the moon's formation history as hot magma started to cool and crystallize. This finding means water is native to the moon.'"
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NASA Says Moon Has More Water Than Great Lakes

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  • So wait... (Score:5, Funny)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:38AM (#32599498)

    There ARE whales?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    how many libraries of congress would one unit of great lakes flood?

    • by Trepidity (597)

      What I want to know is: if you flooded the moon with as many great lakes as there are books in the LoC, to what depth would the flood waters rise?

      • by chromas (1085949)
        7.
      • by martyb (196687) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @07:37AM (#32600558)

        What I want to know is: if you flooded the moon with as many great lakes as there are books in the LoC, to what depth would the flood waters rise?

        Preposterous, but now I'm curious! (Caution: I've only had one cup of coffee so far this morning, so please check my math!)

        Depth of covering the moon with the contents of the Great Lakes, just once:

        (GreatLakesVolume) / (SurfaceAreaOfMoon) =
        (2.256 x 10E4)/(3.793 x 10E7) =>
        .0005947798 km =>
        .597 m

        So, approximately 0.6 meters (just under 2 feet)!

        If we use BooksInLoC of Great Lakes, that works out to:

        (29 x 10E6)(0.6 m) =>
        17.4 x 10E6 m

        So, to answer the original question: 17,400 Km (or approx. 10,800 miles) deep!

        P.S. This was a fun exercise... I knew the Great Lakes were "big", and I knew the Moon was "big", but to think the Great Lakes alone could cover the entire Moon to a depth of about 2 feet... Just. Plain. Wow!

        Extra Credit Question: If the moon were entirely covered by the water from the Great Lakes, how much brighter would it make a Full Moon seem on earth? Bonus: how bright is that compared to the Sun at noon?

        • by atrain728 (1835698) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @09:07AM (#32601202)
          The surface area of an ellipsoid (in this case, the moon) expands as it's diameter increases. Therefore, your math is off by more than a little bit.

          According to Wikipedia, the moon has a mean radius of 1,737.10km and has a volume of 2.1958E10 km^3.

          From your calculations, the great lakes have a volume of 22,560 km^3. Therefore, the volume of the great lakes times the number of books in the library of congress is 6.5424E11 km^3.

          If we add this volume to the volume of the moon, the volume of our new moon is 6.76198E11 km^3. Assuming the new moon takes on a spherical shape, we can get the new radius of the moon by using the formula for the volume of a sphere, V=4/3r^3. Therefore, we deduce that the new radius is 7,974.65km.

          Further assuming that the moon as it exists now settles in the center of this new waterworld relatively undisturbed, with it's mean radius remaining at 1,737.10km, we can calculate the mean depth of the water on the moon as 6237.55km.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          better question.. What are you like after a SECOND cup of coffee?

          Nice work!

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      42 football fields.

      • by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @09:34AM (#32601418)

        Football fields doesn't even bother me as much. At least it's a specifically known number (100 yards - and yes I'm going with the American/gridiron definition of football because we seem to be the only ones who measure in football fields :)) that is small enough to wrap your head around.

        Great lakes? Ok, I know they're pretty big, but I don't know if there's hundreds of thousands of gallons, millions, billions, trillions, or even more gallons of water in those things. I just have no sense of it. Same with "Libraries of Congress". I have no clue how many books they have. I know it's a lot, but I don't know how many. Biggest library I ever saw was our college library; it was 5 stories which compared to our little ~6000 sqft county library back home seemed ENORMOUS, but other students constantly expressed how small and sucky our library was so maybe even that is small potatoes in comparison.

        People seem to be attached to using stupid units though. Kinda like that relative who insists in telling you distances in units of time rather than length.

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:44AM (#32599524)

    Whereas the lakes are, well, lakes... the moon is a sort of kinda planet. Planets tend to be bigger than lakes, and therefore I call this cheating.

    Obviously, there are planets that are also a giant lake... the earth itself for example is quite wet. But those lakes we shall call oceans. So, oceans can compete with planets, but lakes can't. Ok?

    -- wait, that's no moon!

  • by Seriousity (1441391) <Seriousity@ l i v e . com> on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:45AM (#32599526)
    In all seriousity, I thought they would have discovered this when they la-

    Oh wait, that's right, they never did.
  • Units (Score:5, Funny)

    by tomalpha (746163) * on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:45AM (#32599528)
    How much is that in terms of the size of a more standard unit of measurement [bbc.co.uk] ?
  • by VoiceOfRaisin (554019) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:52AM (#32599542)

    And here I thought the great lakes were in Canada as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rheostatik (1628895)
      Well, we are the 51st state, according to douchebags.
      • by hairyfeet (841228)
        Don't worry, if that pesky global warming thing turns out to be true, you will become the 51st state after we "liberate" you! BTW, didn't we hear you guys got plenty of oil up there? I smell WMDs!
        • by pnewhook (788591)

          First get rid of that ridiculous Imperial system and then we'll talk. The English invented it and even they gave it up. The US is the last country left that uses Imperial - why not join the rest of the world in the modern era?

    • by NEW22 (137070) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @05:10AM (#32599892)

      Well, they got a border on all of them... except Lake Michigan! USA!

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      Shhhhh! Don't remind them or pretty soon they'll be sayin' we got WMD's as well, and full of terrorists, and the only way to solve the problem is to get rid of that pesky border altogether! Besides we aren't free enough yet I don't think either...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry, the "US" Great Lakes? Did you guys annex them or something? Did you forget you actually SHARE 4 out of 5 of those lakes? You know what one of them is called? LAKE ONTARIO!

    • Re:"US" Great Lakes? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ledow (319597) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @05:01AM (#32599866) Homepage

      "The largest lake entirely within Canada is the Great Bear Lake. None of the Great Lakes are entirely in Canada, so none of them count. The deepest lake in Canada is Lake Manitou, which has an island inside it, and in that island there is a lake. That makes it the largest lake that's in an island that's in a lake in the world."

      Though, I would expect people living next door to the US to be used to its "US is the world" attitude by now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tverbeek (457094)

        That's nice, but Ryan Island is in Siskiwit Lake, which is on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. It is the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake* in the world". Which, I might add, is really close to Canada and could have been Canadian if the border were drawn more reasonably, but... it's in Michigan. :)

        *This doesn't count the Black or Caspain Sea because they're saline, and it doesn't count Lakes Huron and Michigan as a single lake because no one but a nit-picking hydrol

  • Something else they found, but wasn't mentioned in the article: a frozen, damaged wellhead at the bottom of the lake and a large plume of oil suspended in it. No ideas yet as to how that got there.
  • Yes but... (Score:3, Funny)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:56AM (#32599566)
    The stuff on Earth is cheaper to get to (for now)
  • by rarel (697734)
    How many libraries of congress of water is that?
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @04:12AM (#32599660)
    Never again will we be stumped by atheists when they ask where did all the water go after the flood. We can now tell them that it went to the moon, and scientists have proved it.
  • by art6217 (757847) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @04:55AM (#32599842)
    Volume of the Great Lakes ~22.5 *10^3 km^3 Volume of the Moon ~21.9 *10^9 km^3 So, the Moon contains even more than one teaspoon of water in 5 tonnes of rock.
    • by necro81 (917438)
      This is what troubled me about the finding: Yeah, the Moon may have more water than the Great Lakes, but it is likely that most of that is very diffuse. So, you'd have to strip-mine cubic kilometers of regolith to get enough water for, say, a trip to Mars. Does that make it advantageous compared to Earth water, which despite being at the bottom of a relatively deep gravity well, has the advantage of being readily available?
    • by radtea (464814) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @09:13AM (#32601242)

      So, the Moon contains even more than one teaspoon of water in 5 tonnes of rock.

      Yeah, the article makes it clear that 50 parts per million is the highest estimate they can come up with. Also, it isn't water: it's hydroxyl (OH) groups on molecules in rocks, which is what you get when rocks forming in a wet environment.

      This is the way geologists talk about things, but still, the reporting is almost as misleading as the recent pack of lies [timesonline.co.uk] from the people who brought you Iraqi WMD's claiming there is vast untapped mineral wealth in Afghanistan (which Stephen Peters, the head of the USGS’s Afghanistan Minerals Project, is strangely unaware of according to the linked article from the Times.)

      The discovery of hydroxyl groups in rocks on the moon at the 50 PPM level is scientifically interesting because previously lunar minerals were believed to be absolutely anhydrous: the way I was taught geology back in the day we were told "lunar minerals are just like Terrestrial minerals, except they have no water". That has now been changed to, "except they have almost no water". Ford Prefect would be pleased.

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      5 tonnes? Is that earth gravity or moon gravity?

      • by Tim C (15259)

        Er, 1 tonne = 1,000kg, gravity or no.

        (Or do I hear a whooshing sound?)

  • I did read the fine article and saw no mention of any lakes, let alone Earth's Great Lakes. Where did that come from or did subby take some liberties when composing this ... umm ... composition?
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      I did read the fine article and saw no mention of any lakes, let alone Earth's Great Lakes. Where did that come from or did subby take some liberties when composing this ... umm ... composition?

      First paragraph?

      NASA-funded scientists estimate from recent research that the volume of water molecules locked inside minerals in the moon's interior could exceed the amount of water in the Great Lakes here on Earth.

  • I always wondered about this.

    The moon is essentially "dead", right? No seismic activity to speak of (other then from gravitational forces), no molten core (am I right?) and is pretty much a large rock.

    Wouldn't all of the heavy metals, during the course of the moon's existence, have gravitated towards the core leaving the core with a high concentration of heavy metals that would be relatively easy to mine? Big, deep holes drilled straight down to the good stuff?

    Power all the tech needed with solar, crack the

    • by selven (1556643)

      The most we've dug down on Earth is 12.2 kilometers [wikipedia.org]. It would be easier on the moon since there's not as much gravity and the moon is much more inert but drilling down 1738 kilometers is hard.

      • This was a drilled borehole, a long pipe drilled through by another long rotating pipe. We've only gone 12.2 km because the rock gets wicked warm. Warm enough that it is difficult to use water as coolant (although there is water trapped in the rock). Warm enough that the tools start to have problems. On Earth, eventually you can reach a depth when the rock becomes soft and gooey. The deepest mines are 3.6, 3.7, and 3.9 km. At that depth the rock walls are 140 degF.
        • We've only gone 12.2 km because the rock gets wicked warm.

          You, sir, are obviously not a geologist. The real reason we've only gone that deep is because drilling deeper would threaten the habitat of an subterranean advanced reptilian-humanoid species that would destroy us if we intruded upon them.

  • by talcite (1258586) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @05:52AM (#32600086)

    The article does not mention anywhere that the amount of water on is more than the great lakes system.

    Firstly, the water is in the form of hydroxyl and the mineral apartite (article didn't go into more detail). Secondly, TFA states the amount of water is under 5ppm. Yes, parts per million. I can't see how anyone could arrive at the great lakes value unless they took the volume of the moon and took 5ppm of that, which is ridiculous.

    Firstly, the moon's not a uniform material. Secondly, to get anywhere close to this amount of water, you'd need to mine and refine the majority of the moon. It's like saying we have 300 quintillion gallons of water on earth while neglecting to mention that 97% of it is salt water and some more of it in the ice caps.

    The real takeaway from the article is that the previously estimated amount of water was 1 ppb and now it's around 5 ppm.

    • by talcite (1258586)
      I just re-read the first line of the article.

      NASA-funded scientists estimate from recent research that the volume of water molecules locked inside minerals in the moon's interior could exceed the amount of water in the Great Lakes here on Earth.

      Epic fail.

      Sorry guys.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 3waygeek (58990)

      Firstly, the water is in the form of hydroxyl and the mineral apartite

      Well then, the South Africans should have no problem extracting the water, given their recent history.

  • who are actually going to go to the moon will be pleased. I guess we can still look down on others in smug superiority after we convinced ourselves going back wasn't the best investment of our money. Too bad it was Bush who proposed us going there again

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094)

      Somehow I don't think the Earth-Bound States of America will suffer from not getting its hands on the water that could theoretically be extracted by laboriously pulverizing the entire volume of the moon. Since - as the article points out - the EBSA already has that same amount of water, already in drinkable form, lapping at its shoreline from Minnesota to New York. We'll manage.

  • Of Course! (Score:2, Funny)

    by fabioalcor (1663783)

    That's because cheese contains water!

  • I can't remember the name of the story as it's been years since I read it, but Isaac Asimov wrote a story about a moon colony and political upheaval; some anti-moon demagogues decided to kill the moon program by denying the colonists water and forcing them to come home. They got political support by somehow convincing people that the earth itself would run out of water. The colonists rebelled and went to (iirc) Saturn to bring water back.

    It was a good story, too bad it's now pretty meaningless thanks to the

    • That's the danger with science fiction, it gets out of date way too quickly; one new discovery or invention and bam; the story no longer works.

      That's the danger with bad science fiction that is dependent on its science/technology for the core of its entertainment/enjoyment value, instead of just using the science/tech as a vehicle for the characters/story. Which is not the case with most Asimov I've read (though I haven't read the one you're speaking of). I thoroughly enjoyed The Martian Chronicles, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra despite knowing that there was no breathable atmosphere on Mars/Venus. In fact, most Bradbury/Heinlein/Asimov

  • by yogibaer (757010) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @09:23AM (#32601306)
    Even lots of metric tons. But still you would be filtering water all your life to get some reasonable amount. Isn't that what we are looking at here?

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