Moon wetter than previously thought

Earth's Moon may look bone-dry, but new satellite data indicates large volumes of water "hotspots" trapped within the lunar dust.
By Mae Owen | Jul 25, 2017
Earth's Moon may look bone-dry, but new satellite data indicates large volumes of water "hotspots" trapped within the lunar dust. The water may have come from appears ancient volcanic eruptions or from meteors and space debris that collided with the Moon, according to the study's researchers, who recommend new lunar missions to investigate lunar water further.

"The lunar mantle is wetter than our previous thoughts [suggested]," said Shuai Li, co-author of the study from Brown University.

Li and colleagues published their findings in the journal Nature Geoscience. They based their study on data from Chandrayaan-1, an Indian lunar probe that launched in 2008 with a Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument in tow.

Trace amounts of water molecules are present in much of the Moon's surface, the researchers found. They also found certain "hotspot" areas of much larger concentrations of water. These hotspots range in size from a few square feet to thousands of square miles.

Other astronomers have reviewed the satellite's data before, but the trapped water escaped their notice because thermal radiation from deeper within the Moon obstructed it from view.

Astronomers also already knew if some quantities of water trapped within the Moon's surface. But they did not know how extensive the trapped water was and assumed that almost all lunar soil was utterly barren and that lunar soil samples that had water molecules were not representative of the Moon's surface as a whole.

This study challenges these assumptions and calls for some rethinking of our theories about the Moon's internal structure and how the Moon formed, Li said.

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