The Moon Loses Water When Meteoroids Smack the Lunar Surface


An artist's depiction of the LADEE mission in orbit around the moon, where it measured water vapor released by meteoroid impacts.

(Picture: © NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Picture Lab)

Meteoroid impacts regularly liberate puffs of water vapor from the moon, suggesting that minuscule amounts of water could lurk just beneath the entire lunar surface, a new study finds.

After the Apollo missions introduced lava stones to Earth, scientists discovered evidence that the moon was devoid of water. However, in the past decade, information from a bevy of all spacecraft — such as NASA’s Cassini, Deep Impact and Lunar Prospector missions, along with India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe — showed trace amounts of water on the surface of the moon. As was previously anticipated, even more intriguingly, they found water throughout the moon’s surface, not just at the rods\.

But scientists still have lots of questions about the source and degree of lunar water. To learn more, researchers analyzed information from NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), that orbited the moon out of October 2013 into April 2014.

Connected: View Two Meteorites Hit the Moon! )

The scientists supporting the newly published research discovered that the moon released numerous puffs of water vapor out of close its surface into its exosphereand also the very tenuous layer of molecules containing the nearest thing that the moon has to an air. All these outbursts coincided with 29 called meteoroid streams which passed near Earth through that eight-month span of time, including the Leonids, Geminids and Quadrantids.

“Many of these geological processes we deal with in planetary science are extremely slow — we almost never have to see something react dynamically over the scale of hours like we did here,” lead author Mehdi Benna, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told

The researchers suggested that meteoroid impacts pumped these up puffs of water in the moon, and said that four of these puffs were seemingly due to previously undetected meteoroid streams.

“One would think we know all of the meteoroid streams that are on the market, but apparently we do not,” Benna said.

By analyzing the quantity of water discharged by meteoroid streams of different sizes, the scientists estimated that the uppermost 3. 15 inches (8 centimeters) of lunar soil is dried — less, and smaller meteoroids could have excavated further water. Under this desiccated layer, the researchers indicate, water consists of up to about 0. 05percent of the burden of the stone up to at least 10 ft (3 meters) deep.

“With our measurements, we could see exactly the water hauled from the sky at a really dynamic manner by micrometeroid affects, and by assessing the information, see how much water was stored in the lunar reservoir and in which it had been moving,” Benna said.

The investigators estimated that meteoroid influences cause the moon to lose up to 220 tons (200 metric tons) of water per year. To preserve this amount of loss as time passes, they indicated that this water was current when the moon formed, roughly 4.5 billion years ago, or has been delivered by cosmic impacts from water-laden rocks shortly after the moon was born.

The lunar samples in the Apollo missions may have seemed devoid of water since the water on those rocks was likely not incorporated into the stones themselves, but merely coated them. As such, any water onto the stones was difficult and fragile to hold onto during the return excursions, Benna said.

Future research may examine how deep water really extends on the moon, Benna said. He and his colleagues comprehensive their customs online now (April 15) from the journal Nature Geoscience. 

Practice Charles Q. Choi onto Twitter @cqchoi. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and forth Facebook.  

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