Lunar Meteorite in Africa Looks Like Evidence of Water Beneath the Moon's Surface

Thursday, 03 May 2018 - 8:07PM
Space
Moon
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Thursday, 03 May 2018 - 8:07PM
Lunar Meteorite in Africa Looks Like Evidence of Water Beneath the Moon's Surface
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Flickr/James St. John
When a fallen meteorite from the Moon was recovered in northwest Africa, it was mostly notable because it's cool that something came from the Moon. But now it's getting new attention for something else: a mineral that needs water to form. 

We've known for some time that the Moon contains some water, but only around the north and south and poles, with some unconfirmed evidence of more widespread water. If water exists beneath the surface of the Moon, it would be difficult to detect, so it helps that some traveled here to Earth inside the lunar meteorite NWA 2727.

A team of researchers led by Masahiro Kayama from Tohoku University have just uncovered traces of a mineral called moganite inside the meteorite. Only discovered a few decades ago, moganite is a form of silicon dioxide that's fairly similar to quartz and requires water before it can form; this is because it's formed through a process called brecciation, where rocks/minerals are formed by much older fragments of rocks/minerals which cement together.



This has led the researchers to believe that this mineral (and the water necessary to make it) could be just beneath the lunar surface. They just published a study on the matter in Science Advances.

If water ice were to be found beneath the Moon's surface, it would explain how meteorites like this formed. It's thought that most water on the Moon's surface would simply evaporate, but water could stay intact if it seeped below the surface, forming rocks like these before an asteroid hit the Moon and launched these fragments to Earth.

It helps Kayama's case that we still can't see very deep into the Moon, with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter seeing surface-level only and precious few other spacecrafts or rovers exploring our biggest satellite. Speaking to Space.com, Kayama explained why moganite is so important here:

Opening quote
"For the first time, we can prove that there is water ice in the lunar material. In a moganite, there is less water, because moganite forms from the evaporation of water. That's the case on the surface of the moon. But in the subsurface, much water remains as ice, because it's protected from the sunlight."
Closing quote


If this turns out to be confirmed later down the line, it could be great news for colonists on the Moon. As NASA and other groups look toward space, another trip to the Moon or beyond is likely, and it'll be much easier to get a colony running if we have water (and power and a bunch of other supplies, but one step at a time).
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