Researchers from the Indian Space Research Organization this week have announced that the Chandrayaan-1 probe has founde evidence for water on the surface of the Earth’s moon. The water, referred to as “magmatic,” is locked in mineral grains and could come from somewhere beneath the moon’s surface.
The new research, published recently in the journal Nature Geoscience, is the first time this particular type of water has been found from orbit, though magmatic water was found in surface samples obtained during NASA’s Apollo missions. These new findings suggest that earlier detections of lunar water were not, as previously thought, a contamination from Earth. The water was found near the moon’s equator, in a crater called Bullialdus that contained rocks geologists believe formed within the moon’s crust.
“This rock, which normally resides deep beneath the surface, was excavated from the lunar depths by the impact that formed Bullialdus crater,” said Rachel Klima, lead author of the research paper and a planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins University. “Compared to its surroundings, we found that the central portion of this crater contains a significant amount of hydroxyl – a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom — which is evidence that the rocks in this crater contain water that originated beneath the lunar surface,”
Now that Klima and her colleagues have detected magmatic water on the moon, they are hoping the research will help geologists better understand the moon’s makeup. It could also provide researchers with new data on how the moon formed and how it reached its current state.
“Now that we have detected water that is likely from the interior of the moon, we can start to compare this water with other characteristics of the lunar surface,” said Klima. “This internal magmatic water also provides clues about the moon’s volcanic processes and internal composition, which helps us address questions about how the moon formed, and how magmatic processes changed as it cooled.”
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