In an interesting finding, researchers have claimed that there may be huge reservoirs of water trapped deep inside the dusty surface of the moon. According to scientists, this water is in the form of volcanic ‘glass beads’ and astronauts can extract it for use in future human colonies of moon.
Numerous volcanic deposits across the surface of the moon may contain high amount of trapped water than previously thought, researchers found after analysing satellite data.
In the 1970s, naturally occurring beads were collected as part of the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, which landed near zones of volcanic activity. The magma bursting onto the surface of the moon crystallised in a such a way that the water became trapped inside, resulting in the formation of beads.
However, the scientists were unable to establish whether the Apollo samples were unique and were not sure if other volcanic flows are filled with water-bearing glass.
However, the Apollo samples have been re-examined by the scientists, who used more recent satellite data to find for signs of water-bearing beads on other parts of the moon. They then concluded that the volcanic deposits are indeed widespread, suggesting that the material deep inside the moon is wetter than previously thought.
“The fact that they see this feature associated with the glasses tells us that there was indeed quite a bit of water in the interior of the moon when these volcanic eruptions were occurring,” says Anthony Colaprete, a NASA scientist who reviewed the paper.
The new study about the evidence of ‘more water on moon’ has been published in Nature Geoscience.
Here’s all you need to know about water on the moon:
Has water been found on moon before?
Yes, scientists had recently claimed that moon may have water on its surface. Previously, it was believed that the entire moon was bone-dry. However, researchers in 2008 examined the glass beads from the Apollo samples and they found first sign of water on moon.
NASA crashed a rocket and a satellite into a crater on the south pole of the moon in 2009 with an aim to find evidence of water. NASA found signs associated with water ice and hydroxyl – a highly reactive molecule associated with water.
Scientists found more signs of water in a mineral called apatite in 2010 after they looked closer at other collected moon rocks. From then the geologists began suspecting that there are hidden reservoirs locked in the rocks of moon. Geologist Francis McCubbin estimated at the time
Geologist Francis McCubbin estimated at the time that a one-yard-deep ocean covering the entire surface would be created if you were to take all of the water in the interior of the moon.
What makes this study different?
Even as a good amount of the surface water of the moon has been mapped, what exactly is the interior of moon is like remains a mystery as scientists have obtained a few samples of volcanic rocks from the lunar mantle.
Ralph Milliken of Brown University and Shuai Li at the University of Hawaii wanted to find out more about the presence of water on moon. This study is one of the first to try and answer this question using satellite mapping of volcanic debris called pyroclastic flows.
How much water is there on moon?
The new study has suggested that water is abundant on the moon, however the quantity of it still remains a mystery.
Studies carried out in 2011 suggested that volcanic beads contained similar amounts of water as volcanic basalts on Earth. There is probably more water than all of the surface oceans, lakes, and rivers combined deep beneath the Earth.
This new finding could mean that at least part of the moon’s mantle might have as much water as Earth’s. (Read more about how Saturn's largest moon could have the components needed for life.)
What the new findings mean for the future?
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The glass beads contain only 0.05% of water, however, the sheer amount of them offers a exciting opportunity for future moonwalkers.
Astronauts could be one day able extract the water from the volcanic rocks spread across the moon that could save the hassle of bringing their own water from the Earth.
“This is actually very useful,” says Colaprete. “We can actually now have a better handle on these deposits as a potential lunar resource going forward and can be compared to future studies of polar resources.”