(ORDO NEWS) — Hydrogen and oxygen ions escaping from the Earth‘s upper atmosphere and pooling on the Moon could be one source of lunar water and ice, according to a new study from scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.
“Because the Artemis mission team plans to build a base at the south pole of the moon, water ions that originated many eons ago on Earth could be used in the astronauts’ life support system,” Kletetska said.
A new study estimates that the moon’s polar regions could contain up to 3,500 cubic kilometers of surface permafrost, or subsurface liquid water created from ions that escaped from Earth’s atmosphere. This is a volume comparable to Lake Huron in North America, the eighth largest lake in the world.
It is believed that most of the lunar water was deposited by asteroids and comets that collided with the moon. Most of the collisions occurred during the so-called late heavy bombardment, when 3.5 billion years ago, the early planets withstood the powerful impact of asteroids.
Scientists also suggest that the source of water is the solar wind. The solar wind carries oxygen and hydrogen ions, which may have combined and settled on the Moon in the form of water molecules.
The corresponding study was published on March 16 in the journal Scientific Reports in an article written by Kletechka in collaboration with a graduate student of the Geophysical Institute Nicholas Husson and the UAF Center for Water and Environmental Studies of the Institute of Northern Engineering.
Kletecka and colleagues speculate that hydrogen and oxygen ions enter the moon as it passes through Earth’s magnetotail, which occurs over the five days of the moon’s monthly journey around the planet.
The magnetosphere is a teardrop-shaped bubble created by the Earth’s magnetic field that shields the planet from most of the continuous stream of charged solar particles.
Recent measurements by several space agencies – NASA, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Indian Space Research Organization – have shown a significant amount of water-forming ions present during the moon’s passage through this part of the magnetosphere.
“It’s like the Moon is in a shower under a shower of water ions returning to Earth and falling onto the Moon’s surface,” Kletechka said.
The ions then combine to form the lunar permafrost. Some of this material, as a result of geological and other processes, such as collisions with asteroids, gets under the surface, where it can turn into liquid water.
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