(ORDO NEWS) — We know there is water on the Moon, but questions 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.
And we’re also talking about a lot of water, perhaps as much as 270 trillion kilograms (297.6 billion tons) of matter.
The new results are based on samples returned from China’s Chang’e 5 rover mission.
The spacecraft spent a couple of weeks collecting material from the lunar surface in December 2020, and we have already witnessed exciting new discoveries from subsequent analysis.
Microscopic glass beads are usually formed when pieces of space rock hit the surface of another object, evaporating minerals that can cool down to glassy particles barely a few tens or hundreds of micrometers in size.
Past studies of beads found in Apollo lunar samples have helped debunk previous assumptions about the Moon’s dryness.
Current research shows that much of the water on the Moon is produced with a little help from solar winds such as hydrogen. ions from these streams of solar particles bind with oxygen already stored in the lunar soil.
The reservoir of water potentially represented by these beads could potentially play an important role in the water cycle on the Moon.
The researchers behind this latest study. As some of the water is lost in space, it can be replenished from the reserves contained in the amorphous impact glass.
“Impacting glass beads retain signs of hydration and display water abundance profiles consistent with the internal diffusion of water received by the solar wind,” the researchers write in their recently published paper.
Each glass bead is capable of holding up to 2,000 micrograms (0.002 grams) of water for every gram of particle weight. Based on an analysis of signs of hydration, scientists believe that the balls can store water in just a few years.
“This short propagation of ‘n time’ indicates that solar wind-derived water can be rapidly accumulated and stored in lunar impact glass beads,” the researchers write.
All this is very useful to know when it comes to supporting lunar missions and bases. Being able to tap into this huge reservoir of water could make life on the lunar surface for extended periods of time much more comfortable.
What’s more, the scientists say other “airless bodies” like the moon may store water in their surface layers in the same way. Expect more discoveries along these lines as samples from Chang’e 5 continue to be analyzed.
“These results show that impact glasses on the surface of the Moon and other airless bodies in the solar system are able to store water captured by the solar wind and release it into space,” says geophysicist and study co-author Hu Sen from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
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