Photo by Brian Wright
It wasn't long ago that scientists were saying the Earth's moon may have more water than the Great Lakes. Now comes another study, also funded like the one last, by NASA, that says the moon may have 100 times as much water as previously thought. Moon water?! It's contained in ... wait for it ... lunar magma. NASA officials say the latest data comes from newly discovered lunar melt inclusions found in high-titanium "orange glass soil" of volcanic origin collected during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. What took so long?
The long-time-coming results were achievable due to a state-of-the-art ion microprobe instrument, the space agency says. Specifically, the NanoSIMS 50L ion microprobe. And speaking of long, the inclusions were formed during moon eruptions about 3.7 billion (with a b) years ago.
This microscope photo shows whole spheres and partial fragments of orange volcanic glass, of the type recovered from Apollo 17 sample 74220. Credit: NASA
The lunar magma news is published in the May issue of Science Express as "High Pre-Eruptive Water Contents Preserved in Lunar Melt Inclusions."
The scientists involved in this study, including Alberto Saal of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, were the first to report in 2008 the evidence of water in lunar volcanic gases.
According to Brown officials: "First-time measurements of lunar melt inclusions show that some parts of the lunar mantle have as much water as the Earth's upper mantle. The results may change the prevailing theory about the Moon's origin as well as shed new light on the origin of water at the lunar poles."
Based on the latest study, it's also believed that water-ice detected in craters at the lunar poles by several recent NASA missions may have come from historic volcanic eruptions rather than comet and meteor impacts. Also based on the study: More talk of construction on the moon. Location location location.
"More sample testing will help moon analysts get a better idea of where the moon's water is located and exactly how much is there," according to a report from Medill.
"... even if there are only a billion gallons water in the Cabeus crater on the moon's south pole, where NASA's LCROSS mission discovered hydrocarbons in 2009, any water would be invaluable to future long-term missions," especially if you want to build a base on the moon, says lead study author and geochemist Erik Hauri.
The research was funded by NASA's Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research and Cosmochemistry Programs in Washington, the NASA Lunar Science Institute at the agency's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, and the Astrobiology Institute at Ames.
Photo by Bill Jacobus
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