Latest Issue of Science News

On the Scene

On the Scene

On the Scene

Water on the moon: How much?

Ron Cowen reports from the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences

Sponsor Message

It feels strange to take a funicular to a planetary science meeting. But it’s a steep walk up from the hotel rooms near the sea, and there are no steps, so here at the El Conquistador Hotel in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, I take a slowly climbing tram to the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.

It is damp — humid — outside and in one of the large, darkened meeting halls, Carle Pieters of Brown University is talking about dampness on Earth’s moon.

Her team’s main findings that water permeates the lunar surface come from three spectrometers on three different spacecraft — Cassini, Deep Impact and Chandrayaan-I — were published online September 24 in Science and were reported in Science News.

“So how much water is on the surface?” someone in the audience asks Pieters. For now, she says, the answer depends on who you ask. Quantifying the amount is highly model dependent but, she says, “regardless, it’s not a lot of water; it’s not a wet surface but it has water and OH [the hydroxyl radical] on it,” she says. “It’s drier than the driest desert.”

Roger Clark of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver says there’s some water even on the moon’s equator and he estimates that the concentration of water on the lunar surface could be anywhere between 10 and 1000 parts per million. But he suggests that some of the variations in the water concentration seen by the Deep Impact spacecraft may be due to the craft’s viewing angle, rather than to interactions between the lunar surface and hydrogen carried by the solar wind, as Deep Impact researchers have suggested.

Deep Impact’s Jessica Sunshine of the University of Maryland in College Park disagrees. And if there’s water on the surface of the moon, due to interaction with the solar wind, there ought to be water on Mercury, the solar system’s hottest planet, and even on asteroids, she asserts.

Amid the controversy, one question that does have an answer, says Sunshine, is: How many spacecraft do you need to prove there’s water on the moon?


A health-care communication revolution

Discussing how physicians and patients can cure their misunderstandings of medical statistics.

From the infectious diseases meeting: What's with the vaccine-o-phobia?

Science News writer Nathan Seppa talks with physicians about people opting out of vaccinations.

A little bit of gamma-ray music

BLOG: Art and science meld during a musical performance for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

Why Cousteau's granddaughter was at a meeting on public health

Philadelphia — On brainstorming possible keynote speakers for a major public health conference, the granddaughter of ocean giant Jacques Cousteau does not exactly stand out. But in Philadelphia on Sunday, filmmaker and diver Celine Cousteau stood before the 11,000 or so attendees of the American Public Health Association's annual meeting to explain just why exactly she was there to give the opening session's address.

Changing the paradigm around Alzheimer's disease

Prevention could begin with lifestyle in younger years, one researcher says during the American Public Health Association meeting.

Dining: Bugged on Thanksgiving

Earlier this week, I met with Zack Lemann at the Insectarium, a roughly 18-month-old Audubon museum. He gave me a behind-the-scenes tour of its dozens of living exhibits hosting insects and more -- including tarantulas and, arriving that day for their Tuesday debut, white (non-albino) alligators. But the purpose of my noon-hour visit was to sample the local cuisine and learn details of preparations for a holiday menu that would be offered through tomorrow at the facility’s experiential cafe: Bug Appetit. There’s Thanksgiving turkey with a cornbread and wax worm stuffing, cranberry sauce with meal worms, and Cricket Pumpkin Pie. It’s cuisine most Americans would never pay for. But at the Insectarium, they don’t have to. It’s offered free as part of an educational adventure.

Greening Christmas

I love the smell of balsam and firs and decorating holiday cookies – preferably with the sound of popular holiday standards in the background. I even enjoy shopping for and wrapping carefully chosen presents in seasonal papers festooned with huge bows. So when my hosts, this week, asked what I wanted to see during my visit, the answer was simple. Take me to one of Germany’s famed Christmas markets. And literally within a couple hours of my plane’s landing, they were already ushering me into the first of what would be a handful of such seasonal fairs. But as I also quickly learned, this first was an unusual one: a "green" bazaar.

Bourbon Street can wait. First, the posters

From the American Society of Hematology meeting in New Orleans.

U.N effectively locks out reporters, others in Copenhagen

For a year, the United Nations and national leaders have stumped around the world, championing the importance of the Copenhagen climate negotiations. It made this international conclave a must-see destination. And the UN responded by granting accreditation to huge numbers of government officials, UN officials, public-interest groups and journalists. In fact, to almost twice as many individuals as the conference center could hold. And that led to pandemonium today as the UN confronted literally thousands of people waiting to pick up their security badges – people this organization couldn’t or wouldn’t accommodate.

No one villain behind honey-bee colony collapse

Many factors may interact to bring on the mysterious honey-bee colony collapse disorder.
Subscribe to RSS - On the Scene