The moon might contain much more water than people have initially thought, due to the presence of ancient volcanic deposits, a new study says.
Scientists from Brown University used satellite data to examine layers of rock on the moon that they posit came from massive volcanic eruptions, or lunar pyroclastic deposits, NPR reports. The magma that came from these eruptions was carried to the moon’s surface from deep within its interior.
The idea of water on the moon has long been a subject of discussion. For the longest time, scientists thought that the moon was dry. According to the “giant impact” theory, the moon was created 4.5 billion years ago when a large object slammed into the earth. The result was an ocean of magma on the moon, which made scientists theorize that there would be no way for the moon to hold water.
But the astronauts from the famed Apollo 11 mission brought back lunar samples that included little glass beads. These contained tiny amounts of water, which scientists thought at first came from Earth and had been mixed in.
More specimens showed that there was indeed water existing on the moon.
Previous studies have revealed that shadows at the moon’s poles may be traces of ice, brought on by hydrogen from solar wind. This study takes those theories further by stating that there are likely pools of water in the moon’s mantle, not just ice.
Ralph Milliken, lead author, said that the water might have been delivered to the moon d
uring its early formation, before it became a solid object. And because magma comes from the deep interior, Milliken says that this “must also contain water.”
If there is water on the moon, it would make future lunar mission much more plausible. Water is heavy and expensive to carry from Earth to space, so having water already on the moon would make longer mission possible.