Source of water ice on the Moon can be attributed to an unlikely source

(ORDO NEWS) — Comparatively, not much happens on the Moon. There is dust. There is rock. There are basalt plains there, the product of extensive volcanism throughout much of the Moon’s history.

And, as we recently discovered, there is water. Much water. Encased in the lunar regolith. Trapped in volcanic glass. Perhaps even in sheets of ice on or directly below the surface, hiding in craters at the poles, hiding in permanent shadow where it cannot be sublimated by the heat of the sun.

Where could this water be? came from so far something of a mystery. But the new study points to an interesting source, a process we know has often happened on the Moon in the past: volcanoes.

Planetary scientists wondered if there were enough water molecules in the ancient Moon’s volcanic degassing to fall back to the surface and form ice sheets in a permanent shadow. Now it seems that the answer is yes.

“Our model suggests that [about] 41% of the entire mass of H 2 O erupted during this period could have condensed as ice in polar regions up to several hundred meters thick,” the team of researchers, led by planetary scientist Andrew Wilkosky of University of Colorado at Boulder.

“Our work suggests that the early Moon’s volcanically active period would have been punctuated by short-lived collisional atmospheres that effectively captured large amounts of water ice at the poles and temporary daytime water ice and steam at all latitudes.”

The Moon seems pretty serene today, but it was once a complete mess. Those dark spots you see when you look at the full moon are vast plains of volcanic rock from a period of large-scale volcanic activity that may have started as early as 4.2 billion years ago and lasted about 1 billion years ago. most of the activity took place during the first two billion years or so of this time period.

Tens of thousands of volcanoes have erupted lava onto the Moon, covering the surface with volcanic landscapes (for context, the most volcanic ones in the solar system are Jupiter’s moon Io, which has over 400 known volcanoes).

In addition, these eruptions included huge clouds of volcanic gases, mainly carbon monoxide and water vapor.

They may have formed a thin, transient atmosphere around the Moon that later dissipated into space. But Wilkoski and his colleagues suggested that if the water vapor wasn’t all dissipated by the solar wind; what if part of it settles like frost?

They ran simulations assuming an average frequency of massive eruptions about once every 22,000 years. They then studied the rate at which volcanic gases escaped into space, compared to how much they condensed, froze, and settled on the lunar surface.

They found that as long as the atmosphere persists, the time interval is about 1000 years. years – about 15 percent of the water settles and forms frost on the lunar nightside, about 8.2 quadrillion kilograms (18 quadrillion pounds).

The researchers said some of this frost will sublime in the sun over time, but over billions of years, enough of it may have remained to make up a significant portion of the ice that remains today.

This does not mean it will be easy to find. Some of them may be buried several meters below the lunar surface. But some water may have remained on the surface at lower latitudes long enough to interact with the minerals found there, or be trapped in volcanic glass that is melted down by meteorite impacts.

Such evidence for the existence of water in the past has already been obtained. identified on the Moon, giving us a starting point to look for corroborating evidence of ancient volcanic frost on the Moon. Science is so cool.


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