Lunar water, previously unknown to exist independently on the surface of the Moon, has recently been detected, opening doors to discovering more information about the Moonâ€™s processes and composition. This surface water, known as magmatic water, originated from deep within the Moonâ€™s interior. This exciting discovery of internal water from orbit means that scientists can now begin to understand lunar water in a much broader context.
Lunar water, previously unknown to exist independently on the surface of the Moon, has recently been detected. This surface water, known as magmatic water, originated from deep within the Moonâ€™s interior. This exciting discovery of internal water from orbit means that scientists can now begin to understand lunar water in a much broader context.
Published in Nature Geoscience, lead author Rachel Klima, planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., of "Remote detection of magmatic water in Bullialdus Crater on the Moon," states that these finding represent the first remote detection of magmatic water. According to Klima, "the discovery represents an exciting contribution to the rapidly changing understanding of lunar water."
"For many years, researchers believed that the rocks from the Moon were 'bone dry' and that any water detected in the Apollo samples had to be contamination from Earth," said Klima. "About five years ago, new laboratory techniques used to investigate lunar samples revealed that the interior of the Moon is not as dry as we previously thought. Around the same time, data from orbital spacecraft detected water on the lunar surface, which is thought to be a thin layer formed from solar wind hitting the lunar surface."
"This surficial water unfortunately did not give us any information about the magmatic water that exists deeper within the lunar crust and mantle, but we were able to identify the rock types in and around Bullialdus crater," said co-author Justin Hagerty, of the U.S. Geological Survey. "Such studies can help us understand how the surficial water originated and where it might exist in the lunar mantle."
According to Klima, "The internal magmatic water provides information about the Moon's volcanic processes and internal composition. Understanding this internal composition helps us address questions about how the Moon formed, and how magmatic processes changed as it cooled. There have been some measurements of internal water in lunar samples, but until now this form of native lunar water has not been detected from orbit."
"Now we need to look elsewhere on the Moon and try to test our findings about the relationship between the incompatible trace elements (e.g., thorium and uranium) and the hydroxyl signature," Klima said. "In some cases this will involve accounting for the surface water that is likely produced by interactions with the solar wind, so it will require integration of data from many orbital missions."
In addition to Klima and Hagerty, Joshua Cahill and David Lawrence, both of APL, co-authored the paper. The research was supported by the NASA Lunar Advanced Science and Engineering Program, NLSI and the NASA Planetary Mission Data Analysis Program.
Read more at the USGS.
Moon image via Shutterstock.