Do you think any scientist assumed that there was this much water in space a few decades ago? With each year, we hear of new celestial objects where water is abundant in one form or another, even in places outside the Solar System. While all these discoveries are important, finding water on the Moon and Mars is definitely the highest priority.
Over the past decades, we have finally become convinced that the Moon is not at all waterless. Water ice is dispersed in the local soil, hiding in deep darkness at the bottom of the craters.
However, its origin remains a mystery. If water ended up on the satellite after the fall of ice comets, it would quickly evaporate due to the lack of an atmosphere capable of retaining moisture.
Instead, water can appear directly on the moon. According to one of the new promising hypotheses, the solar wind protons reach its surface, which is not protected by either the atmosphere or the magnetosphere which protects our Earth. There, they interact with oxides in the composition of minerals, forming new water molecules and constantly replenishing the supply of moisture escaping into space.
The next stage occurs during the days of the full moon each month. According to computer-generated models, a large percentage of the liquid should evaporate during those days when our satellite is protected from the solar winds.
This process was reviewed by the authors of a new article published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Using data collected by the Japanese lunar probe Kaguya, they recorded changes in the flow of the solar wind, “washing” the satellite.
Further observations of the Indian apparatus Chandrayaan-1 helped to assess the distribution of water in the circumpolar regions. However, the results turned out to be rather unexpected: no significant changes in the amount of ice occur on the prescribed days.
Therefore, scientists put forward another hypothesis for the origin of water on the moon, not related to the effects of the solar wind. The fact is that the Earth’s magnetosphere is also capable of directing protons and watering the lunar surface with no fewer particles than the solar wind: although not so strongly accelerated.
The stream contains both protons and oxygen ions from the upper layers of the earth’s atmosphere. This means that “earth’s wind” may be enough to form new water molecules on the moon.
Scientists plan to continue their exploration of the moon with more powerful technology to find better regions for future satellite exploration, as well as mining. All in all, finding out exactly how water appears on the Moon can answer many questions about potential important planet targets in deep space or at least within the Solar System.
There is no doubt that water is much more abundant in space than any scientist believed a few decades ago and it is probably much more common than we understand now. We will continue finding it in different corners of the universe. The key here is to also understand its existence and especially when it comes to the Moon and Mars, which are the primary targets set by agencies around the world.
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• McRae, M. (n.d.). The Moon Could Be Getting Water Thanks to ‘Wind’ From Earth’s Magnetosphere.
• O’Neill, M. (2021, January 29). First Evidence That Earth’s Magnetosphere Can Create Water on the Moon’s Surface.
• Robitzski, D. (2021, January 28). Study: The Moon’s water came from Earth’s magnetic field.
• Wang, H. (n.d.). Earth Wind as a Possible Exogenous Source of Lunar Surface Hydration.