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Moon’s dark patches hide fluff and ice

The permanently shadowed regions of the moon have baffled scientists since long. Now, a team has claimed that the most intriguing areas on the earth’s closest neighbour may hide fluffy dirt and water ice.

world Updated: Jan 21, 2012 00:08 IST

The permanently shadowed regions of the moon have baffled scientists since long. Now, a team has claimed that the most intriguing areas on the earth’s closest neighbour may hide fluffy dirt and water ice.

These dark regions on the moon’s poles are usually deep in craters where sunlight can’t reach, thus telescopes and satellites have no way to image them.

Now, researchers at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, using a more devious method to view these areas, found that the regions may be relatively abundant in water ice, space.com reported. It was found the moon’s shaded regions are darker in lyman alpha emission than other areas. Lyman alpha emission is a light that is reflected off hydrogen atoms floating throughout the universe. “Our best explanation for this difference in reflectance at the poles is that the surface is more porous and fluffier,” study co-author Kurt Retherford said. “It’s a powdery, flour type of material.”

The scientists think that water might be responsible for the fluffy dirt at the moon’s poles. Small particles of water frost moving in and out of grains of dirt may result in more holes between the grains, giving it a porous texture, they believe.