by Jessica Lear
February 18, 2013
Water in the moon?
It seems so
According to a new study (Water
in Lunar Anorthosites and Evidence for a Wet Early Moon),
the long accepted theory of how the moon was formed
may have to be reexamined.
This recent study has revealed that the interior of the moon held
water early in its lunar history. Some scientists speculate this new
information may clash with the current explanation for how the moon
Examining samples collected from the moon during the Apollo
missions, a research team at the University of Michigan has
determined that the interior of the moon used to contain water. The
samples that were studied were collected from the lunar highlands,
which is considered the original lunar crust. At its start, the moon
was made mostly of molten material until the crust solidified into
the moon we see now.
The new study suggests that there was
water present within the moon while it was still in its molten
Until now, most scientists have agreed that the moon was formed by
debris leftover from a small-body planet impact with Earth.
According to this theory, any water found on the moon was brought
there after its formation by solar winds or small meteorites.
In essence, the new research says the
moon contained water before it solidified while the old theory
insists water was brought to the lunar surface after its formation
by various objects on impact.
“Because these are some of the
oldest rocks from the moon, the water is inferred to have been
in the moon when it formed,” said Youxue Zhang of the University
“This is somewhat difficult to
explain with the current popular moon-formation model, in which
the moon formed by collecting the hot ejecta as the result of a
super-giant impact of a martian-size body with the proto-Earth.”
Youxue Zhang said if the old
model was correct, the hot ejecta would have degassed the moon
completely, eliminating all traces of water on the lunar surface.
Following examination of the lunar
samples under a microscope equipped with a spectrometer, the team of
researchers discovered that the rocks contain 6 parts per million
The amount is far less than that found
on Earth’s driest deserts, but it far exceeds previous estimates
related to the lunar debris theory. According to the Michigan
researchers, the amount translates to the moon’s magma ocean
containing upwards of 320 parts per million of water.
The study follows in the wake of a number of studies aimed at better
understanding the moon’s early days.
The study released last year announced
the discovery of small amounts of water on the moon’s surface, which
researchers say arrived via small asteroids and comets sent smashing
into the lunar surface.
Earlier this year, a pair of NASA probes
were directed to crash land in the side of a lunar mountain,
providing scientists with a wealth of data related to the moon’s
subsurface. The pair of probes spent much of the previous year
relaying information on the moon’s gravitational field back to
Although the formation of the moon was thought to be a solved
mystery, its validity seems to be in question. Whether or not
researchers decide to take the challenge to determine how the moon
was created once and for all is still up in the air.
The findings were published online Sunday at 'Water
in Lunar Anorthosites and Evidence for a Wet Early Moon',
in the journal Nature Geoscience.