Meteors slamming into the Moon reveal underground water

An artistic rendering shows a meteoroid impact release a puff of water vapor into the lunar atmosphere

An artistic rendering shows a meteoroid impact release a puff of water vapor into the lunar atmosphere

Scientists have already known that Titan has a cycle similar to Earth's water cycle - except instead of water, these liquid hydrocarbons are what get pooled in its oceans, evaporated into the atmosphere, and rained back down again. Between November 2013 and April 2014, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer recorded occasional spikes in the numbers of particles, including water molecules, that were lofted off the moon.

The scientists behind the newly published research found that the moon released numerous puffs of water vapor from near its surface into its exosphere, the very tenuous layer of molecules comprising the closest thing that the moon has to an atmosphere. By analyzing this data, the team discerned a clear pattern between these water emissions and meteorite showers. To free up the buried water, researchers estimated the meteoroid stream would have to penetrate at least three inches.

When a speck of space debris strikes the moon it vaporises on impact, creating a shock wave that resonates through the lunar soil.

They found that water spiked in the thin lunar atmosphere at the same times the Moon found itself being pummeled by meteor streams.

While there is evidence that water exists on the Moon, these findings can help explain the deposits of ice in cold traps in the dark reaches of craters near the poles of the spatial body.

Below this, they calculate that water is uniformly present at concentrations up to about 0.05 per cent.

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The team's findings suggest lunar soil between a desiccated surface layer 8 centimeters thick to a depth of 3 meters contains between 200 and 500 parts per million of water-and that the water may be more readily extracted from the soil than previously presumed.

Such discovery could mean future lunar colonies could harvest water on the moon without having to bring it with them from Earth.

They could also convert it into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel or oxygen to breathe, scientists claim.

In February 2018, a study found by the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado water in the form of OH - a more reactive relative of H2O - all over the lunar surface. The distribution of water on the natural satellite as well as the quantity in which the element is present on the Moon are a few other hotly debated topics in scientific circles. And luckily, we've also now discovered that the Moon, far from being a waterless rock, is in fact simply hiding water beneath its surface.

This finding bolsters the idea that the lunar mantle is surprisingly water-rich, which could make colonising it for future space exploration much easier.

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