The moon may have more water than previously thought, findings of a new study, which was published in Nature Geoscience, have suggested.
Water Trapped In Glass Beads Of Ancient Rocks And Ash
Researchers from Brown University used satellite data to study layers of lunar rock known as lunar pyroclastic deposits that had likely formed from large volcanic eruptions. They found evidence of water trapped in "glass beads" of these ancient rocks and ash that had been spewed by volcanoes across the moon's surface.
Study researcher Ralph Milliken, of Brown University's Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, said that nearly all of the volcanic deposits show signatures of water, which suggests that the bulk of the moon's interior is wet. The new research likewise hints that there is likely a substantial amount of water present in the mantle of Earth's natural satellite.
"Here we demonstrate that, for a number of lunar pyroclastic deposits, near-infrared reflectance spectra acquired by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument onboard the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter exhibit absorptions consistent with enhanced OH- and/or H2O-bearing materials," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published on July 24.
"These enhancements suggest a widespread occurrence of water in pyroclastic materials sourced from the deep lunar interior, and thus an indigenous origin."
Implication On Future Moon Missions
The findings have implications on future missions to the moon. Astronauts who will participate in future lunar missions may tap on water that can be extracted from volcanic deposits. The presence of large amounts of water can make moon missions more plausible since water, a necessity for survival, is heavy and costly to transport from Earth. It also opens up many possibilities for long-term stay on the moon.
The volcanic glass beads may not contain much water but there are a lot of volcanic materials to work with. Some fields of volcanic refuse span thousands of square kilometers and could be several kilometers deep.
How Water Was Brought To The Moon
If there is indeed water in the moon's mantle as suggested by the study, it could also mean that water was brought to the moon very early in its formation before the moon fully solidified.
"It is generally thought that the giant impact event that formed the moon was too energetic and hot for water to remain, yet there it is," Milliken said. "One option is that the water was delivered after the giant impact event, but before the moon had completely cooled, likely due to impacts by water-bearing comets and asteroids."