The moon may have siphoned water from Earth’s atmosphere for billions of years, storing it as ice at the bottom of craters, a new study has found.
Research from the University of Alaska Fairbanks suggests that the ions that make up water are attracted to the moon as it passes through part of Earth’s magnetosphere.
This is in addition to other suspected methods including the bombardment of asteroids 3.5 billion years ago and the solar wind delivering oxygen and hydrogen ions.
The team estimates that there are up to 840 cubic miles of surface permafrost or underground liquid water on the moon that have escaped from Earth’s atmosphere – enough to fill Lake Huron in North America – the eighth largest lake on the planet.
The work, by lead author Professor Gunther Kletetschka, adds to a growing body of research on water at the moon’s north and south poles, prime targets for a base.
The moon may have siphoned water from Earth’s atmosphere for billions of years, storing it as ice at the bottom of craters, a new study suggests
Finding water is key to NASA’s Project Artemis, the planned long-term human presence on the moon. NASA plans to return humans to the moon this decade.
“As NASA’s Artemis team plans to build a base camp at the south pole of the Moon, water ions that appeared many eons ago on Earth can be used in the astronauts’ life support system. “, said Kletetschka.
The researchers based their estimate, 840 cubic miles of water, on calculating the lowest volume model – one percent of Earth’s atmospheric exhaust reaching the moon.
It is generally believed that a majority of lunar water was deposited by asteroids and comets that collided with the moon.
Research from the University of Alaska Fairbanks suggests that the ions that make up water are attracted to the moon as it passes through part of Earth’s magnetosphere
This is in addition to other suspected methods, including the bombardment of asteroids 3.5 billion years ago, and the solar wind delivering oxygen and hydrogen ions.
Most took place during a period known as the Late Heavy Bombardment, a time around 3.5 billion years ago when the solar system was a billion years old and the first inner planets suffered an unusually heavy impact from the asteroids.
In addition to the asteroid and comet’s ancient water source on the moon, scientists also suggest that the solar wind could be a source.
Ice cream on the moon! Water buried in moon rocks ‘that could one day support a human colony’ was likely preserved by an ancient magnetic field
According to a study, frozen water buried in rocks on the lunar surface may have been shielded from intense sunlight by an ancient magnetic field surrounding the moon.
Once extracted from rocks, the water could one day be used to support future human settlements, experts have said – providing both something to drink and ingredients for fuel.
A number of spacecraft have seen evidence of ice at the bottom of craters in the moon’s polar regions, where temperatures can drop to -418°F due to the inability of sunlight to penetrate outside. inside dark pits.
However, solar winds can penetrate inside, breaking down ice formations molecule by molecule – which is why scientists have long been unsure how the moon’s ice remained in place millions of years after it arrived. on a comet.
A new study from a team at the University of Arizona, however, suggests that the water is preserved thanks to “magnetic anomalies” surrounding certain craters, which are remnants of the ancient magnetic field that once covered the moon.
Speaking to Science, the team said the anomalies would “deflect the solar wind” and “could be large enough to protect permanently shadowed regions”.
The solar wind carries oxygen and hydrogen ions, which may have combined and deposited on the moon as water molecules.
In this new study, the team suggests that in addition to solar wind carrying ions and ancient bombardments, water arrived from Earth’s atmosphere.
Kletetschka and his colleagues suggest that hydrogen and oxygen ions are swept into the moon as it passes through the tail of Earth’s magnetosphere, which it does for five days of the moon’s monthly journey around the planet.
The magnetosphere is the teardrop-shaped bubble created by the Earth’s magnetic field that shields the planet from much of the continuous flux of charged solar particles.
Recent measurements by several space agencies, including NASA, ESA, JAXA and ISRO, have revealed significant numbers of water-forming ions present during the moon’s transit through this part of the magnetosphere. .
These ions have been slowly building up since the late bombardment, increasing over 3.5 billion years each time the moon passes through the magnetosphere.
The presence of the moon in the tail of the magnetosphere, called the magnetotail, temporarily affects some of the Earth’s magnetic field lines – those that are interrupted and simply recede into space for several thousand miles.
Not all Earth field lines are attached to the planet at both ends, as some have only one point of attachment.
The presence of the moon in the magnetotail causes some of these broken field lines to reconnect with their opposite broken counterpart.
When this happens, the hydrogen and oxygen ions that had escaped Earth rush to these reconnected field lines and are accelerated back to Earth.
The authors of the paper suggest that many of these returning ions hit the passing moon, which has no magnetosphere of its own to repel them.
“It’s like the moon is in the shower – a shower of water ions returning to Earth, falling on the moon’s surface,” Kletetschka said.
The ions then combine to form lunar permafrost, and some are carried below the surface where they exist as liquid water.
The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was Apollo’s twin sister and moon goddess in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its journey back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2025 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human exploration of deep space and demonstrate our commitment and ability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly further than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon during a mission lasting approximately three weeks.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars. This graphic explains the different stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any astronaut ship without docking with a space station and will return home faster and warmer than ever.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps in human deep space exploration where astronauts will build and begin testing near-moon systems needed for lunar surface missions and exploration. to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
They will take the crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans on board.
Together, Orion, SLS and Kennedy’s ground systems will be able to meet the most challenging requirements of deep space crew and cargo missions.
Eventually, NASA is looking to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will discover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advances, and lay the groundwork for private companies to build a lunar economy.