(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have long known that there is water on the Moon, but questions still remain about how it got there, where it is stored, and how it moves.
In a new study, scientists from China have identified tiny glass beads in the lunar soil as potential places where water could be hiding.
We are talking about a huge amount of water, perhaps as much as 297.6 billion tons of matter.
The new results are based on samples brought back from China’s Chang’e 5 rover mission. The spacecraft spent a couple of weeks collecting material from the lunar surface in December 2020.
Microscopic glass beads are usually formed when asteroids crash into the surface of another object, vaporizing minerals that can cool down to glassy particles only a few tens or hundreds of micrometers in diameter.
Past studies of marbles found in Apollo lunar samples have helped debunk previous assumptions about the Moon’s dryness.
New research shows that much of the lunar water is formed with little help from solar winds, as hydrogen ions from these solar particle streams bind to oxygen already stored in the lunar soil.
According to the researchers, the reservoir of water potentially represented by these balls could potentially play an important role in the lunar water cycle.
Since some water is lost in space, it can be replenished with reserves stored in amorphous impact glass.
“The impact glass beads retain signs of hydration and display water abundance profiles consistent with the internal diffusion of water derived from the solar wind,” the researchers write.
Each glass bead is capable of holding up to 2,000 micrograms (0.002 grams) of water for every gram of particle mass. Scientists believe that the balls can accumulate water in just a few years.
“This short diffusion time indicates that solar wind-derived water can be rapidly accumulated and stored in glass beads,” the researchers write.
Being able to use this huge reservoir of water would make life on the lunar surface much more comfortable for extended periods of time.
What’s more, the scientists say other “airless bodies” like the Moon can store water in their surface layers in the same way.
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