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On the moon, water water everywhere and not a drop to drink (yet)

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Moon image captured by lander Vikram

WASHINGTON : The moon lacks the bodies of liquid water that are a hallmark of Earth but scientists said on Monday lunar water is more widespread than previously known, with water molecules trapped within mineral grains on the surface and more water perhaps hidden in ice patches residing in permanent shadows.

While research 11 years ago indicated water was relatively widespread in small amounts on the moon, a team of scientists is now reporting the first unambiguous detection of water molecules on the lunar surface. At the same time, another team is reporting that the moon possesses roughly 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers) of permanent shadows that potentially could harbor hidden pockets of water in the form of ice.

Water is a precious resource and a relatively plentiful lunar presence could prove important to future astronaut and robotic missions seeking to extract and utilize water for purposes such as a drinking supply or a fuel ingredient.

A team led by Casey Honniball of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland detected molecular water on the lunar surface, trapped within natural glasses or between debris grains. Previous observations have suffered from ambiguity between water and its molecular cousin hydroxyl, but the new detection used a method that yielded unambiguous findings.

The only way for this water to survive on the sunlit lunar surfaces where it was observed was to be embedded within mineral grains, protecting it from the frigid and foreboding environment. The researchers used data from the SOFIA airborne observatory, a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a telescope.

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“A lot of people think that the detection I’ve made is water ice, which is not true. It’s just the water molecules – because they’re so spread out they don’t interact with each other to form water ice or even liquid water,” Honniball said.

The second study, also published in the journal Nature Astronomy, focused upon so-called cold traps on the moon, regions of its surface that exist in a state of perpetual darkness where temperatures are below about negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 163 degrees Celsius). That is cold enough that frozen water can remain stable for billions of years.

Using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, researchers led by planetary scientist Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado, Boulder detected what may be tens of billions of small shadows, many no bigger than a small coin. Most are located in the polar regions.

“Our research shows that a multitude of previously unknown regions of the moon could harbor water ice,” Hayne said. “Our results suggest that water could be much more widespread in the moon’s polar regions than previously thought, making it easier to access, extract and analyze.”

NASA is planning a return of astronauts to the moon, a mission envisioned as paving the way for a later journey carrying a crew to Mars. Accessible sources where water can be harvested on the moon would beneficial to those endeavors.

“Water is not just constrained to the polar region. It’s more spread out than we thought it was,” Honniball said.

Another mystery that remains unsolved is the source of the lunar water.

“The origin of water on the moon is one of the big-picture questions we are trying to answer through this and other research,” Hayne said. “Currently, the major contenders are comets, asteroids or small interplanetary dust particles, the solar wind, and the moon itself through outgassing from volcanic eruptions.”

Earth is a wet world, with vast salty oceans, large freshwater lakes and ice caps that serve as water reservoirs.

“As our closest planetary companion, understanding the origins of water on the moon can also shed light on the origins of Earth’s water – still an open question in planetary science,” Hayne added.

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Lunar Eclipse: Chant these mantras for peace during Chandra Grahan

Check out the Chandra Beej Mantra, Dhanvantari Mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Shanti Path given below to ward off the ill-effects of this celestial movement.

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Lunar eclipse

Lunar Eclipse 2020: The fourth and the last Upachaya Chandra Grahan (Penumbral Lunar Eclipse) of 2020 will take place today. Though Sutak is not applicable during Upachaya Chandra Grahan, the constant movements of the Grahas (planets) may cast an impact on zodiac signs. It may influence people’s natal charts. Hence, people must chant mantras to negate the negative effect of Grahan.

The Lunar Eclipse will have a duration of 4 hours and 18 minutes. It will begin on Monday at 1.04 pm and reach its peak at 3.13 pm. The Lunar Eclipse will end at 5.22 pm and will have a magnitude of 0.82.

Check out the Chandra Beej Mantra, Dhanvantari Mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Shanti Path given below to ward off the ill-effects of this celestial movement.

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NGT directs States, UTs to set up nodal agencies to protect, restore waterbodies

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Rainwater harvesting

Following a plea seeking identification, protection and restoration of waterbodies in Gurugram, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has expanded the scope of the petition and directed all States and Union Territories to designate a nodal agency under respective chief secretaries within a month.

A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the nodal agencies to convene a meeting by January 31 to “take stock of the situation” and plan further steps, including directions to district authorities for further course of action. It also directed the nodal agencies to evolve a monitoring and grievance redressal mechanism.

Rainwater harvesting

Taking note of a report furnished by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on rainwater harvesting, the Bench observed, “It appears that the CPCB has not appreciated the direction of this Tribunal on the subject. While rainwater harvesting maybe required in all buildings and other places in urban areas, in the present context, the Tribunal has directed setting up of such facilities in sub-water sheds along ponds for utilisation of surplus rainwater for restoration of the ponds which have become dry and for augmenting other ponds.”

Stating that there was a need for “continuous planning and monitoring” at the national, State and district levels, the panel observed that observations of the CPCB and an oversight committee needed to be acted upon.

“As suggested by the CPCB, a single agency needs to be set up in every State and Union Territory within one month. This work may either be assigned to the Wetland Authority of the state or the River Rejuvenation Committee or to any other designated authority such as the Secretary, Irrigation and Public Health or Water Resources,” the Bench said.

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Guterres highlights long-term strategies towards carbon neutrality

Heading towards the Climate Ambition Summit on December 12 and COP26 next year, the UN chief signalled that “the world will once again be looking to the European Union for climate leadership”.

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has highlighted the importance of long-term strategies towards carbon neutrality when speaking virtually to the European Council on Foreign Relations.

On Thursday, the UN chief stressed the need for “every country, city, financial institution and company” to adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050, reports Xinhua news agency.

He called for them to be ready before November 2021, when the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is scheduled to be held in Scotland, and he highlighted the importance of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) required under the 2015 Paris Agreement and “long-term strategies towards carbon neutrality”.

Pointing to its “pioneering legislation and policies”, the UN chief hailed the 27-member European Union (EU) as “a leader on climate action”, which had shown that it was possible to cut emissions while achieving economic growth.

The Secretary-General applauded the bloc’s climate action, while emphasizing that “we are still nowhere near the finish line… and still running behind in the race against time”.

“I urge you to continue to lead with concrete and ambitious near-term commitments,” said the UN chief, advocating for EU members’ NDCs to reflect at least a 55 per cent emission reduction by 2030.

Noting that “the EU has been building solidarity with the most vulnerable countries around the world”, Guterres pointed out that the bloc’s proposals to speed up how it confronts inequality and protects those affected by the transition “can set a powerful example”.

“The EU has a crucial role in ensuring that developing countries in need have the necessary support to recover sustainably from Covid-19 and to enhance their own climate ambition – through assistance for mitigation, adaptation and resilience,” the Secretary-General added.

Heading towards the Climate Ambition Summit on December 12 and COP26 next year, the UN chief signalled that “the world will once again be looking to the European Union for climate leadership”.

“I urge the EU to seize these opportunities – and answer this call for people everywhere, for prosperity and for the planet we all share and depend on,” he said.

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