Ancient volcanoes may be the source of water on the moon

It was in January that China’s space program (CNSA) was the first to detect water signals directly from the moon’s surface, thanks to its Chang’e-5 lunar probe. The news made headlines around the world.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that not all of the Moon’s water came from its own surface; some of them separated from the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, a new study has found a new and unexpected source for the water of the Moon: the ancient volcanoes.

Water from volcanic eruptions

Research from the University of Colorado at Boulder was first shared on May 17 and speculates that there are layers of ice caused by volcanic eruptions at the Moon’s poles, and in some places could even measure tens or even and all hundreds of feet.

“We imagine it as a frost on the moon that has accumulated over time,” said Andrew Wilcoski, lead author of the new study and a graduate student in the Department of Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences (APS) and the Atmospheric Physics Laboratory. Spatial. (LASP) and CU Boulder.

To reach these conclusions, the researchers relied on computer simulations that they used to recreate conditions on the Moon when water sources were supposed to have developed. They discovered that ancient lunar volcanoes emitted large amounts of water vapor, which then settled to the surface in the form of ice deposits in lunar craters.

“At 5 or 10 feet below the surface, you may have large ice sheets,” said study co-author Paul Hayne, an assistant professor at APS and LASP.

So what about research speculating on other sources of water on the moon? Hayne further suggested that the moon could be covered with much more water than scientists thought was possible, all from a variety of sources. “There are a lot of potential sources right now,” Hayne said, but the lunar volcanoes are large.

Huge rivers and lava lakes

Planetary scientists speculate that from 2,000 to 4 billion years ago, tens of thousands of volcanoes erupted on the Moon’s surface, giving rise to large rivers and lava lakes. “They undertake almost every eruption on Earth,” Hayne said.

These furious volcanoes probably also expelled clouds made up primarily of carbon monoxide and water vapor that revolved around the Moon, potentially creating water-based atmospheres. It is these atmospheres that researchers presume left the ice on the lunar surface.

According to the researchers’ computer models, about 41 percent of the water in the volcanoes may have condensed on the moon in the form of ice. “The atmosphere escaped for about 1,000 years, so it took a long time for ice to form,” Wilcoski said.

What does it mean? If space explorers dig deep enough, they can find the water sources they need to make lunar missions viable. “We really need to dig deeper and look for it,” Hayne concluded.

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