A new study suggests that the Moon contains more water than previously thought, and much of it can be found just beneath the lunar surface.
By analyzing satellite images captured by an Indian lunar orbiter, scientists found evidence of water trapped inside “glass beads” contained in ash and rock deposits which were scattered on the Moon’s surface following volcanic eruptions from billions of years ago.
Ralph Milliken, lead author of the new research published via Nature Geoscience and associate professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, told CNN that nearly all volcanic deposits found on the Moon’s surface show evidence of water.
“The fact that nearly all of them (the volcanic deposits) exhibit signatures of water suggests… that the bulk interior of the moon is wet,” Milliken said.
Milliken added that while glass beads don’t have much water in them, there’s more than enough volcanic material to extract from. According to the study, some portions of volcanic debris cover thousands of square kilometers and may be several kilometers deep.
“It’s more water than previously recognized,” he said.
Shuai Li, co-author of the study of satellite data, said that sub-surface water reserves could be extracted from the lunar surface and possibly used as “in situ resources for future exploration.”
“The growing evidence for water inside the Moon suggests that water did somehow survive, or that it was brought in shortly after the impact by asteroids or comets before the Moon had completely solidified,” she said.
She added that being able to do away with the necessity of bringing water during trips to the Moon could be a huge step forward for lunar exploration.
— Popular Mechanics (@PopMech) July 24, 2017
For many years, scientists believed that the Moon was completely dry. But in 2008, scientists discovered water deposits trapped in glass beads of volcanic rocks gathered during the Apollo missions in the 70s. Three years later, further examination of the glass beads’ interior revealed that they contain similar amounts of water as most basalt materials found on Earth. At the time, however, scientists were still deliberating how much water is contained in the Moon’s interior. The new study attempts to answer this question using satellite information gathered by Chandrayaan-1 orbiter’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument.
“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,” Anthony Colaprete of NASA told National Geographic.
Moon's surprisingly extensive sub-surface water reserves could potentially be used "for future exploration" https://t.co/FpvP0ZCDOs
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 25, 2017
While the new study hasn’t determined a close approximation of how much water there is inside the Moon, it was able to map out locations where water-rich deposits can be found, including spots near the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 landing sites.
[Featured Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]