A new study based on satellite data, published in Nature Geoscience, has revealed that various volcanic deposits scattered across the surface of the Moon contain remarkably high amounts of water.
Experts have revealed that large amounts of water may be trapped in rocky material that makes up our Moon’s mante—raising hopes of being a beneficial discovery for future human exploration, and lunar colonies.
Scientists from Brown University analyzed lunar pyroclastic deposits— layers of rock that likely formed from large volcanic eruptions.
Researchers examined data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a spectrometer aboard the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter from India, and found evidence of water in almost all large pyroclastic deposits that had previously been mapped across the surface of the moon, including deposits near the landing sites of the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, where samples of water droplets were collected.
Lead scientist Dr. Ralph Milliken, from Brown University in the US, said: “The key question is if those Apollo samples represent the bulk conditions of the lunar interior or instead denote unusual or perhaps anomalous water-rich areas within an otherwise ‘dry’ lunar mantle.”
“By analyzing the orbital data, we are able to examine the large pyroclastic deposits on the Moon that were never sampled by the Apollo or (Soviet) Luna missions.”
“The fact that nearly all of them exhibit signatures of water hints that the Apollo samples are not atypical, so it may be that the bulk interior of the moon is wet.”
Scientists indicate how the ancient deposits on the moon consist of glass beads that were formed by ancient explosive eruptions of magma that originated from deep inside the moon. The spectrometer data showed extremely large traces of trapped water in the volcanic deposits, compared to other surrounding areas.
This discovery is really exciting for our plans to colonize the moon.
In fact, not long ago Professor Stephen Hawking said how mankind should create a fully functional lunar colony on the surface of the moon within 30 years. The lunar colony would act as a ’gas station’ that would help us explore the rest of our solar system. Certainly, one of the biggest difficulties on the moon for human colonies that it’s really difficult to transport enough water from Earth to the lunar surface.
This is why the discovery of the lunar beads could provide more than useful water for future astronauts living on a lunar colony.
This discovery comes as a surprise for many researchers since it was believed that the moon’s interior was largely depleted of water and other compounds.
“The water that we identified in the glass beads in these ancient fire fountain deposits originated from the interior of the moon,” said Milliken.
“This tells us that there is water inside our moon’s mantle, and since the magma for these eruptions originates from notable deep distances (several hundreds of kilometers down), there must be water in the deep interior of the moon.”
However, it is noteworthy to consider that the water inside the moon is not in liquid form, but is mixed with ‘rocky’ materials that make up the moon’s mantle, something similar to how water inside Earth is mixed with the planet’s mantle.
Furthermore, the discovery of water inside the moon changes a lot we thought about Earth’s natural satellite.
According to the prevailing scientific theory, our moon was formed from debris left after a Mars sized object impacted Earth in the early solar system’s history.
If this were true, then scientists say that the moon should be DRY, as it seems very unlikely that any hydrogen needed to form water on the moon would have survived the extreme heat of such a cosmic impact.
Co-Author of the study Dr. Shuai Li, from the University of Hawaii explains:
“The growing evidence for water inside the moon hints that water did somehow endure, or that it was brought in shortly after the impact by asteroids or comets before the moon had completely solidified.
“The exact origin of water in the lunar interior is still a big question.”