Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evidence Of Water Found Deep Within The Moon: Dampens Moon-formation Theory

Date:
July 10, 2008
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
A Brown-led research team has for the first time found evidence of water deep within the moon. Researchers believe the water was contained in lunar magmas ejected more than 3 billion years ago. The discovery strongly suggests that water has been a part of the Moon since its early existence -- and perhaps since it was first created.

Watery Glasses. Researchers led by Brown geologist Alberto Saal analyzed lunar volcanic glasses, such these gathered by the Apollo 15 mission, and used a new analytic technique to detect water. The discovery strongly suggests that water has been a part of the Moon since its early existence -- and perhaps since it was first created.
Credit: NASA

A Brown University-led research team has for the first time discovered evidence of water that came from deep within the Moon, a revelation that strongly suggests water has been a part of the Moon since its early existence – and perhaps ever since it was created by a cataclysmic collision between the early Earth and a Mars-sized object about 4.5 billion years ago.

In a paper published in the July 10 issue of the journal Nature, the team, led by Alberto Saal, assistant professor of geological sciences at Brown, believes that the water was contained in magmas erupted from fire fountains onto the surface of the Moon more than 3 billion years ago. About 95 percent of the water vapor from the magma was lost to space during this eruptive “degassing,” the team estimates. But traces of water vapor may have drifted toward the cold poles of the Moon, where they may remain as ice in permanently shadowed craters.

NASA plans to send its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter later this year to search for evidence of water ice at the Moon’s south pole. If water is found, the researchers may have figured out the origin.

The water clue came from lunar volcanic glasses, pebble-like beads collected and returned to Earth by NASA’s Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the decades since, scientists have sought to determine the content and origin of a class of chemical elements known as volatiles in the multicolored glasses. In particular, they searched the glasses for signs of water. But such evidence had remained elusive, consistent with the general consensus that the Moon is dry.

Now, that evidence has been found.

“What is important for me is it’s telling me something about the origin of the Moon and the Earth and the presence of water at very early times,” said Saal, the paper’s lead author.

Three other researchers from the Department of Geological Sciences at Brown – professors Reid Cooper and Malcolm Rutherford, and graduate student Mauro Lo Cascio – contributed to the research. Erik Hauri from the Carnegie Institution for Science developed the analytical technique used to identify water and the other volatiles. James Van Orman from Case Western Reserve University also participated in the work.

Based on their observations that nearly all the water in the lunar magma was lost to space during the eruptions, the researchers calculated that the pre-eruption magma may have contained water up to 750 parts per million — similar to the water content of primitive magmas that erupted on the Earth’s seafloor at midocean ridges.

“This suggests the very intriguing possibility that the Moon’s interior might have contained just as much water as the Earth’s depleted upper mantle,” Hauri said.

Hauri used secondary mass ion spectrometry, a technique that measures the elemental composition of solid materials, to detect the minute amounts of water in the samples.

“We developed a way to detect as little as five parts per million of water,” Hauri said. “We were really surprised to find a whole lot more in these tiny glass beads, up to 46 parts per million.”

The team then confirmed through a series of tests that hydrogen had been present all along, and the samples had not been infused by hydrogen-rich solar winds or tainted by other volatiles.

“This confirms that water comes from deep within the mantle of the Moon,” Saal said. “It has nothing to do with secondary processes, such as contamination or solar wind.”

The research also may yield additional insight into how long water has been on Earth, Saal added.

“It suggests that water was present within the Earth before the giant collision that formed the Moon,” Saal said. “That points to two possibilities: Water either was not completely vaporized in that collision or it was added a short time – less than 100 million years – afterward by volatiles introduced from the outside, such as with meteorites.”

The researchers this summer will study volcanic glasses gathered from other Apollo missions for evidence of water.

NASA’s Cosmochemistry Program funded the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brown University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Brown University. "Evidence Of Water Found Deep Within The Moon: Dampens Moon-formation Theory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080709144219.htm>.
Brown University. (2008, July 10). Evidence Of Water Found Deep Within The Moon: Dampens Moon-formation Theory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080709144219.htm
Brown University. "Evidence Of Water Found Deep Within The Moon: Dampens Moon-formation Theory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080709144219.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil. It has announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins