Moon Water Found: 'Native' Water Source Key For Colonization

By Staff Reporter on February 19, 2013 12:59 PM EST

Moon
Discovery of native water on the moon changes popular theories of the moon's formation (Photo: Creative Commons)

Scientists studying lunar rocks provided by the Apollo astronaut missions indicate that the moon may actually possess its own native water. Given this profound discovery, scientists realize that the new evidence contradicts with the current theory on how the moon was formed.

Scientists believed that water on the moon's surface are likely deposits left by the debris of comets and asteroids. However, the latest information gathered from lunar samples indicate that the moon's interior might have been damp in its early days.

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The idea of "native water" and a "damp" moon debunks the most popular theory of how the moon was formed. Scientists once believed that an enormous Mars-sized body had hit a young Earth billions of years ago to break off an enormous chunk of debris into our orbit. Eventually, the debris would coalesced into a new entity. This theory suggests a very violent process that would cause water to evaporate.

"It's thought that the moon's formation involved the materials getting very hot," said UCLA cosmochemist Paul Warren. "It's usually assumed that little water would have survived through that."

Warren was not involved in the new study.

Rock samples from the moon appeared bone dry on first appearance. However, University of Notre Dame geologist Hejiu Hui explained that the latest methods of analysis allowed scientists to find a significant number of tiny concentrations of water that is trapped in glass beads formed by volcanic eruptions during the moon's earlier years.

Some experts still argued that the glass beads can still be caused by exposure to an alien water source. To address the claims, Hui and his team decided to retrieve a plagioclase, a unique rock formed in the magma oceans inside the moon. While these rocks would float to the surface to form the moon's crust, it will still possess a chemical time capsule that will allow scientists to observe the nature of a young moon.

Following the study of a number of samples under a microscope with an equipped spectrometer, scientists determined that the rocks contained 6 parts per million of water. While this is even drier than the Saharan desert, the findings still indicate that far more water than expected can still be found in the moon's once-molten core. Based on the samples, scientists estimate that the moon's early magma ocean could have contained up to 320 parts per million water.

An interesting discovery, scientists have yet to propose new theories on how the moon was formed. That said, the examinations will continue as the knowledge could one day aid astronauts that spearhead new missions to the moon.

"Someday, when we put men on the moon in a more permanent way, we might need that water," Paul Warren said.

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