If you thought that the Moon is a dusty, dry place, it is time to think again. It looks like water has been hiding in the lunar subsoil, mere inches from the Moon's surface. A NASA spacecraft sent to study lunar dust and atmosphere also picked up signs of water being released from the Moon as meteors collide with its surface. This unprecedented detection, was on Monday reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows that tiny impacts release up to 220 tonne of water a year—much more than should be on the surface based on previously known delivery systems.
The data leading up to this landmark finding was collected through the space agency's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) - a robotic mission which orbited the Moon from October 2013 to April 2014, to gather information about the Moon's exosphere. "The Moon doesn't have significant amounts of H2O or OH in its atmosphere most of the time," Richard Elphic, the LADEE project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley said.
"But when the Moon passed through one of these meteoroid streams, enough vapour was ejected for us to detect it. And then, when the event was over, the H2O or OH went away," a NASA press release quoted him as saying.
According to NASA, the revelations give scientists an opportunity to understand the history of lunar water and improve the understanding of the Moon's geologic past and its continued evolution.
These findings can help explain the deposits of ice in cold traps in the dark reaches of craters near the poles of the spatial body. However, the scientists working on the project have rejected the idea that all of the detected water on Earth's natural satellite comes from meteoroids.
"We know that some of the water must be coming from the Moon because the mass of water being released is greater than the water mass within the meteoroids coming in," the second author of the research, Dana Hurley from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said.