The discovery of water in one of the Solar System’s darkest places could provide the key to deep space colonies and a moon base. Scientists have detected water in craters in the polar regions of the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. New images from NASA ’s Dawn spacecraft reveal frozen water trapped in a few of the craters of Ceres where the sun never shines. Ceres is the third planetary body, after the Moon and Mercury, where frozen water has been identified.
At minus 200 degrees Centigrade (-200C) they are among the coldest, darkest places in the Solar System. By understanding the water ice spotted on Ceres, scientists hope to learn more about water on the Moon and other bodies without an atmosphere.
Ceres compared to other bodies in the Solar System (Photo: Getty)
They hope it will eventually enable mankind to establish a permanent lunar base. Planetary scientist Dr Thomas Platz said: “The hope is by understanding water ice on Ceres, we could learn more about ice much closer to home, on the moon, enabling us, one day, to live there.”
A moon village would be built from its own resources including metals, minerals and water ice. Access to water would be essential for those living there. If we can access water from lunar rocks, a human settlement is far more likely. It currently costs around £17,000 to take just one pint of water from Earth to the moon.
The European Space Agency recently announced it wants to colonise the moon by 2030.
Dr Platz and his team found locations of perpetual shadow in more than 600 crater on Ceress, ten of which exhibit water ice, reports Nature Astronomy. Dr Platz, of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, added: “Ceres, a dwarf planet located in the main asteroid belt, has a low bulk density, and models predict a substantial amount of water ice is present in its mantle and outer shell.
“This detection strengthens the evidence that permanently shadowed areas have preserved water ice on airless planetary bodies.”
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