Preliminary data from Nasa’s lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) has confirmed the presence of water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater.

The LCROSS and the upper stage of the lunar reconnaissance orbiter (LRO) made twin impacts in the Cabeus crater in October 2009 to create a plume of material from the bottom of a crater, with the aim of uncovering the presence of water.

Nasa’s chief lunar scientist in Washington, Michael Wargo, said that the moon harboured many secrets, and LCROSS had added a new layer to our understanding of it.

A huge amount of data has been analysed since the impacts, with particular focus on LCROSS’s spectrometers, which will provide the most definitive information about the presence of water.

A spectrometer helps identify the composition of materials by examining the light they emit or absorb.

The satellite has a payload of two near-infrared spectrometers, a visible-light spectrometer, two mid-infrared cameras, two near-infrared cameras, a visible camera and a visible radiometer.

The known near-infrared spectral signatures of water and other materials was compared to the impact spectra the LCROSS near infrared spectrometer collected.

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Nasa’s Ames Research Center LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator Anthony Colaprete said that they were able to match the spectra from LCROSS data only when we inserted the spectra for water.

Data from the other LCROSS instruments is being analysed for additional clues about the state and distribution of material at the impact site.

LCROSS was launched in June 2009 as a companion mission to the LRO, which still continues to pass over the site for additional insight into the mechanics of the impact and its resulting craters.