An Ocean of Water May Be Hiding on the Moon—And This New Discovery Could Finally Prove It
Scientists have been arguing for decades over whether Mars has (or ever had) liquid water, but the discovery of several lunar meteorites in a North African desert may have clinched the mystery of whether the Moon has water—and whether it could support a space colony of its own.
Of the 13 lunar meteorites found by the team of Japanese scientists, only one had moganite, a mineral that only forms in the presence of water.
"Moganite is a crystal of silicon dioxide and is similar to quartz," explains Masahiro Kayama of Tohoku University.
"It forms on Earth as a precipitate when alkaline water including SiO2 is evaporated under high-pressure conditions. The existence of moganite strongly implies that there is water activity on the Moon."
Though the chemical makeup of meteorites can change while facing the incredible heat created from crashing through Earth's atmosphere (not to mention the years they may spend undergoing weathering here on Earth), the fact that only one meteorite contains moganite means that the mineral was created on the Moon, not Earth.
"If terrestrial weathering had produced moganite in the lunar meteorite, there should be moganite present in all the samples that fell to Earth around the same time. But this was not the case," says Kayama.
The current theory is that the meteorite came from a region called Procellarum Terrane on the Moon, where Kayama believes water ice crystals are forming below the surface, protected from sunlight.
If this is the case, then the Moon's poles aren't the only place to contain water ice—in fact, water ice may be relatively common on the Moon, making it possible for human colonies and lunar industrial projects to operate relatively easily.
However, we'll need to wait a few years for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's upcoming Moon missions, which aim to explore the poles and dark side, to get a better picture of just how much water the Moon holds.