Water content of moon interior underestimated: StudyJune 15th, 2010 - 1:00 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, June 15 (ANI): The volume of water molecules locked inside minerals in the Moon’s interior could exceed the amount of water in the Great Lakes here on Earth, NASA-funded scientists claim.
The finding suggests that water may be native to the Moon and not that it has been dry all this while, as the researchers earlier thought.
“For over 40 years we thought the Moon was dry,” said Francis McCubbin of Carnegie and lead author of the report.
“In our study we looked at hydroxyl, a compound with an oxygen atom bound with hydrogen, and apatite, a water-bearing mineral in the assemblage of minerals we examined in two Apollo samples and a lunar meteorite.”
McCubbin’s team used tests, which detect elements in the parts per billion range and found that the result is of their study shows at least two orders of magnitude greater than previous results from lunar samples that estimated water content of the Moon to be less than 1 part per billion.
“In this case, when we talk about water on the Moon, we mean water in the structural form hydroxyl,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“This is a very minor component of the rocks that make up the lunar interior.”
Scientists commonly believe that the impact of a Mars-size object that impacted the Earth 4.5 billion years ago put a large amount of material into Earth’s orbit that ultimately compacted to form the Moon. The lunar magma ocean that is thought to have formed at some point during the compacting process began to cool. During this cooling, water either escaped or was preserved as hydroxyl molecules in the crystallizing minerals.
“Since water is insoluble in the main silicates that crystallized, we believed that it should have concentrated in those rocks,” said Andrew Steele of Carnegie and co-author of the report.
“The concentrations are very low and, accordingly, they have been until recently nearly impossible to detect. We can now finally begin to consider the implications - and the origin — of water in the interior of the Moon,” said lunar scientist Bradley Jolliff of Washington University in St. Louis.
The report was published in Monday’s Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)
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Tags: andrew steele, apollo samples, assemblage, cooling water, lunar meteorite, lunar samples, magma ocean, mccubbin, minor component, nasa, nasa headquarters, orders of magnitude, oxygen atom, planetary science division, previous results, silicates, volume of water, water content, water molecules, water on the moon