Get Regular Updates!



NASA/Daniel Rutter

Ice on the Moon’s boiling surface

Ice on the Moon’s boiling surface

Frozen ice has been discovered on the Moon's hot surface? Sounds like lunacy!

Ice on the Moon’s boiling surface

In late October, NASA announced astronomers had found ice on the Moon’s surface! But wait, didn’t we already know that? And why should Australia care?

Well, we knew there was ice on the Moon’s north and south poles, but the rest of the Moon’s surface was a mystery.

Astronomers knew about water-like molecules on the surface, but they weren’t sure if this was H2O or the molecule OH-, which acts like drain cleaner.

Ice, ice baby

The NASA announcement was based on two scientific papers.

The first paper used a NASA jet called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

View Larger
Image|NASA/Jim Ross
SOFIA is a jet equipped with telescopes.

SOFIA picks up the infrared light the Moon gets from the Sun and reflects to Earth.

Each molecule has a unique way of reflecting light. By studying the infrared light from the Moon, we can tell what molecules are on its surface.

A team of astronomers using SOFIA found H2O molecules on the Moon’s sunny surface by mapping one of the Moon’s biggest craters, Clavius.

SOFIA found roughly enough ice to melt and fill one 360mL bottle per cubic metre.

At the same time, another group discovered ice in crater shadows.

View Larger
The moon’s large Clavius Crater.

Sunny side up

Dr Sascha Schediwy is a space scientist who studies the Moon. He was hyped when NASA announced news of water on the Moon’s sunny side.

Sascha leads the ICRAR/UWA Astrophotonics Group in Western Australia. This group uses light in different ways to study space.

“It’s a really exciting find. It makes human exploration of the Moon more compelling,” Sascha says.

What’s amazing about these findings is that astronomers long thought water ice couldn’t exist on the Moon’s sunny surface.

In late October 2020, NASA announced astronomers had found ice on the Moon’s surface! What does this mean for us in Australia?
Image|Muruyama/Osaka University
Meteorites could both strip and deposit ice on the Moon’s surface.
“Micrometeor impacts and solar wind would evaporate surface ice. That we detected some even though we shouldn’t be able to means there might more beneath,” says Sascha.

The Moon’s sunny surface is also 127°C. That would boil water on Earth, but the Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere.

This means shadows stay cool enough for ice, while areas nearby are roasting.

Quench your thirst with space water

So why is ice on the Moon important?

Astronauts can drink the water, use it to protect against radiation and turn it into rocket fuel. A large ice deposit on the Moon is like a goldmine on Earth.

NASA plans to build a Moon outpost starting in 2024, and they’ll need water to do it.



Australia’s trip to the Moon

Australia will be involved by building launch pads and monitoring stations.

“Australia should be involved in Moon settlement. We have a geographical advantage in the southern hemisphere. That’s important for activities on the Moon’s south pole,” says Sascha.

The Australian Government has set aside a fund of nearly $20 million this year for space businesses.

Sascha says Australia should send its own microsatellites to explore the Moon. These satellites could find more outpost sites and expand our space industry.

Discovering ice on the Moon’s surface means we’re one step closer to humanity exploring and settling the Solar System.

I guess this makes ice pretty cool!

Particle Puns


Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.


You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.


Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.


All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.


For more information about using our content, email us:

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?