NASA discovers that meteoroids are depleting the moon’s water supply
- A team of researchers from
NASAand the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory have discovered that water is released from the Moon when it gets struck by meteoroids.
- They were able to track the phenomenon using observations made by NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).
- This is a stepping stone in understanding the history of water on the Moon and how it can be used to help human space exploration missions.
Scientists had long speculated that meteorite impacts could have such an impact, but this is the first time that they’ve actually observed the phenomenon — but it also shows that meteoroid impacts release water faster than the Moon can replace it.
Even so, these findings go a long way in helping the scientific community understand the history of
The water being lost is likely ancient, either dating back to the formation of the Moon or deposited early in its history.
Essentially, when debris from a comet in the form of a meteoroid hits the Moon, it vaporises on impact. That impact, in turn, creates a shock wave in the lunar soil. If an impact is big enough, the shockwave will be large enough to breach through the soil’s top layer that’s mostly dry and release the water molecules from underneath.
NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) was able to track these water molecules as they entered the lunar atmosphere. Using those observations, researchers from NASA and
We traced most of these events to known meteoroid streams, but the really surprising part is that we also found evidence of four meteoroid streams that were previously undiscovered.
One could speculate that the water detected could be a result of the meteoroids’ water mass rather than the Moon. But, the team was able to determine that this cannot be the case since the water being released is in excess of the water mass detected in the meteoroids.
We know that some of the water must be coming from the Moon, because the mass of water being released is greater than the water mass within the meteoroids coming in.
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