NASA has hinted at an exciting new discovery about the moon - here's what we know

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 2:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 2:51 pm

NASA has teased “an exciting new discovery” about the moon.

The space agency will unveil the news at a major event, and while details of the discovery remain under wraps for now, NASA has said that the discovery “contributes to Nasa’s efforts to learn about the Moon in support of deep space exploration”.

The teasing of the announcement has led to outlandish speculation by social media users about the discovery.

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Here's what we know so far.

What has NASA said?

On October 21 NASA released a statement saying “an exciting new discovery about the Moon” was to be revealed early next week.

They said that the discovery had been made by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a modified Boeing 747 which flies near the surface of our atmosphere allowing a clear view of our solar system.

It said that the new discovery, “contributes to NASA’s efforts to learn about the Moon in support of deep space exploration”.

They added that, “understanding the science of the Moon also helps piece together the broader history of the inner solar system”.

When is the big announcement?

The news will be revealed at a media teleconference at 5pm UK time on Monday October 26.

You can tune in to a livestream of audio from the conference at nasa.gov.

What can we expect?

Details of the discovery are under wraps for now, but a press release from NASA has provided some clues.

The space agency confirmed that four briefing participants would take part in the event - these are: Paul Hertz, Astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters, Washington, Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Casey Honniball, postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland and Naseem Rangwala, project scientist for the SOFIA mission, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, California.

The presence of Dr Honniball has led many to speculate that the announcement could relate to the presence of water on the moon.

Dr Honniball led a team who “developed a new approach to detect the actual water molecule on the Moon” using infrared astronomy.

In August Dr Honniball published a paper titled ‘Telescopic Observations of Lunar Hydration: Variations and Abundance’ which explored how water might behave on the moon.

There has long been evidence that water may be present on the moon in some form, but this has never been definitive.

Some social media users have opted for less credible theories from a suggestion that the moon could endorse Joe Biden for the US presidency, to the presence of cheese on the lunar surface – neither theory has been confirmed or denied by the space agency.