August 28, 2013 – There is now strong evidence that Mars had rivers at one point in time. Now a new discovery has proved that the moon also isn't as dusty as we once thought!
For years researchers have thought that any water in moon rock samples was just water from Earth, but now they've realized that water was actually lunar water, also known as magmatic water.
NASA scientists made this discovery while analyzing data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.
When the M3 was imaging the lunar impact crater Bullialdus they found traces of magmatic water–water that comes from deep within a planet's surface during volcanic eruptions–on the moon's surface.
Rachel Klima, a planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said "Compared to its surroundings, we found that the central portion of this crater contains a [large] amount of hydroxyl–a molecule [made of] one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom–which is evidence that the rocks in this crater contain water that [came from] beneath the lunar surface."
Scientists have known that there is at least a small amount of water on the moon since 2009 when the M3 created a mineralogical map of the moon's surface and discovered small water molecules in the moon's north and south poles.
This water was believed to be a thin layer of water made by solar wind hitting the moon's surface. However, the Billialdus crater isn't in a very good location so solar wind could not make such a large amount of water appear there. This means that the water comes from inside the moon!
Aside from proving that the surface of the moon isn't bone dry, this discovery means researchers will now have to retest their lunar rock samples and compare them with other findings about the moon's surface.
"This internal magmatic water also provides clues about the moon's volcanic processes and internal [composition], which helps us address questions about how the moon formed and how magmatic processes changed as it cooled," said Kilma.