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Moon Wetter Than Previously Thought

Accepted submission by takyon at 2017-07-25 07:34:43

A study using data collected by the Chandrayaan-1 [] lunar orbiter has found evidence of elevated water content [] in some pyroclastic deposits on the Moon:

The inside of the moon is wetter than previously thought, research suggests, opening up fresh possibilities for manned missions to the lunar landscape.

While the moon was once thought to be bone-dry, in recent years water has been found trapped in lunar volcanic glasses – material formed from magma ejected from the moon's interior. But it has remained a topic of debate just how wet the lunar innards are, with some arguing that the water content of lunar samples may not be representative of the majority of the moon's mantle – the layer beneath the crust.

Now researchers say a new analysis of satellite data has unpicked the puzzle, revealing "hotspots" of trapped water right across the moon's surface in deposits from ancient eruptions. "The lunar mantle is wetter than our previous thoughts [suggested]," said Shuai Li, co-author of the study from Brown University.

Also at Brown University [], National Geographic [], NPR [], The Verge [], and [].

Remote detection of widespread indigenous water in lunar pyroclastic deposits [] (DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2993) (DX []) (supplemental [])

Here we demonstrate that, for a number of lunar pyroclastic deposits, near-infrared reflectance spectra acquired by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument onboard the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter exhibit absorptions consistent with enhanced OH- and/or H2O-bearing materials. These enhancements suggest a widespread occurrence of water in pyroclastic materials sourced from the deep lunar interior, and thus an indigenous origin. Water abundances of up to 150 ppm are estimated for large pyroclastic deposits, with localized values of about 300 to 400 ppm at potential vent areas. Enhanced water content associated with lunar pyroclastic deposits and the large areal extent, widespread distribution and variable chemistry of these deposits on the lunar surface are consistent with significant water in the bulk lunar mantle. We therefore suggest that water-bearing volcanic glasses from Apollo landing sites are not anomalous, and volatile loss during pyroclastic eruptions may represent a significant pathway for the transport of water to the lunar surface.

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