The four billion-year-old early lunar crust was once “enriched” in water, contradicting scientists’ prior understanding of the Moon as practically bone dry.
Dr. Tara Hayden, of from Western University, Canada, made the discovery while working to verify that a rock sample was a meteorite that came from the Moon.
Once she confirmed that it had, she also identified a mineral called apatite in the sample.
“The discovery of apatite in the Moon’s early crust for the first time is incredibly exciting,” Dr. Hayden said.
“The research offers exciting new evidence that the Moon’s early crust contained more water than was originally thought, meaning we can finally start to piece together this unknown stage of lunar history.”
Other samples of the Moon’s crust, collected during Apollo missions, also identified apatite.
However, the mineral was not, until now, found in Ferroan Anorthosites – the rock group understood to represent the Moon’s early crust.
These rocks were formed from the Lunar Magma Ocean, back when the Moon was almost entirely molten.
“I was so lucky the meteorite not only came from the Moon but, remarkably, featured chemistry so vital to our understanding about lunar water-bearing minerals,” said Dr. Hayden.
Professor Mahesh Anand, Dr. Hayden’s supervisor, added: “Unravelling the history of water in the earliest-formed lunar crust approximately 4.5 billion years ago is important for improving our understanding of the origin of water in the Solar System.
“Ancient rock samples from the Moon in the form of lunar meteorites provide an excellent opportunity for undertaking such investigations.”
Dr. Hayden says that her findings, which have been published in the journal Nature Astronomy, come at the perfect time for further lunar exploration.
NASA is currently preparing to launch its Artemis missions, and researchers, including her supervisor, are developing projects for the astronauts.
“It has been long believed the lunar surface has been dried out for thousands and even millions of years, but maybe there might be more water available than we thought on the surface of the Moon and we just need to find a way to extract it,” said Dr. Hayden.
“As more samples are collected during the upcoming Artemis missions, and the new stage of lunar exploration begins, I am eager to see what we will learn from the lunar far side.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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