New research shows the interior of our natural satellite is an extremely dry place. Pictured is a cross-polarized light image of a portion of the interior of the lunar 'Rusty Rock' impact melt breccia. Grey minerals are plagioclase grains and bright colored grains are pyroxene grains

The moon’s interior is DRY

The moon is our closest planetary body and it impacts our planet every day, controlling the tides, yet we still do not fully understand how it came about.

Now, a new study suggests that the interior of our natural satellite is an extremely dry place.

The results add weight to the most widely accepted theory of how the moon was formed, but contradict a study published earlier this summer that suggested the moon was much wetter than we thought.

Scroll down for video

New research shows the interior of our natural satellite is an extremely dry place. Pictured is a cross-polarized light image of a portion of the interior of the lunar 'Rusty Rock' impact melt breccia. Grey minerals are plagioclase grains and bright colored grains are pyroxene grains

New research shows the interior of our natural satellite is an extremely dry place. Pictured is a cross-polarized light image of a portion of the interior of the lunar ‘Rusty Rock’ impact melt breccia. Grey minerals are plagioclase grains and bright colored grains are pyroxene grains

THE STUDY

The researchers studied a sample of ‘rusty rock’, brought back from the Apollo 16 mission in 1972.

It was a bit of a mystery how the rust got there, as water is needed for rust to form.

However, a new chemical analysis shows the rock is consistent with a dry lunar interior.

The results in this paper suggest when the moon formed it was ‘very, very, hot,’ Dr Day said. ‘Essentially an ocean of magma.’

The rust was able to form when zinc condensed on the moon’s surface, after it evaporated during the time when the young moon was incredibly hot.

‘Zinc is a volatile element, so it behaves a bit like water under conditions of moon formation,’ Dr Day said. ‘It’s something like clouds forming from the ocean; the clouds are rich in light oxygen isotopes, and the ocean is rich in heavy oxygen isotopes.’

It is thought the moon formed when another planet crashed into our own, displacing a huge amount of debris that eventually merged into a spherical shape.

If this is the case, the moon would have been incredibly hot when it first formed, too hot for any water to exist on its surface.

A study earlier this year suggested the interior of the moon Is wet, contradicting the theory of how it formed.

But now, new research from the University of California San Diego has been published suggesting it is in fact a dry place.

‘It’s been a big question whether the moon is wet or dry. It might seem like a trivial thing, but this is actually quite important,’ says James Day, a geochemist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the leading author of the study.

‘If the moon is dry – like we’ve thought for about the last 45 years, since the Apollo missions – it would be consistent with the formation of the moon in some sort of cataclysmic impact event that formed it,’ Dr Day said.

The researchers studied a sample of ‘rusty rock’, brought back from the Apollo 16 mission in 1972.

‘It’s the only rock from the moon that came back with what appeared to be rust on its outer surfaces,’ Dr Day said.

It was a bit of a mystery how the rust got there, as water is needed for rust to form.

However, a new chemical analysis published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today shows the rock is consistent with a dry lunar interior.

The researchers believe that the rust was able to form when zinc condensed on the moon's surface, after it evaporated during the time when the young moon was incredibly hot

The researchers believe that the rust was able to form when zinc condensed on the moon’s surface, after it evaporated during the time when the young moon was incredibly hot

HOW WAS THE MOON FORMED?

Many researchers believe the moon formed after Earth was hit by a planet the size of Mars billions of years ago.

This is called the giant impact hypothesis.

The hypothesis claims the moon is debris left over following an indirect collision between our planet and an astronomical body approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

The colliding body is sometimes called Theia, after the mythical Greek Titan who was the mother of Selene, the goddess of the moon.

But one mystery has persisted, revealed by rocks the Apollo astronauts brought back from the moon – why are the moon and Earth so similar in their composition?

Several different theories have emerged over the years to explain the similar fingerprints of Earth and the moon.

Perhaps the impact created a huge cloud of debris that mixed thoroughly with the Earth and then later condensed to form the moon.

Or Theia could have, coincidentally, been isotopically similar to young Earth.

A third possibility is that the moon formed from Earthen materials, rather than from Theia, although this would have been a very unusual type of impact.

The results in this paper suggest when the moon formed it was ‘very, very, hot,’ Dr Day said. ‘Essentially an ocean of magma.’

‘I suppose the analogy could be like squeezing a nearly-dry sponge,’ Dr Day told MailOnline. ‘There would still be some water that would come out of it if you squeezed hard enough.

‘The rusty rock shows that what little water or other volatiles that were within its source were effectively removed,’ he said.

‘The reason the source was so dry is due to loss of volatile elements and compounds prior to the formation of the rusty rock and very early in the Moon’s history.’

The rust was able to form when zinc condensed on the moon’s surface, after it evaporated during the time when the young moon was incredibly hot.

‘Zinc is a volatile element, so it behaves a bit like water under conditions of moon formation,’ Dr Day said. ‘It’s something like clouds forming from the ocean; the clouds are rich in light oxygen isotopes, and the ocean is rich in heavy oxygen isotopes.’

A study published in July, looking at glass beads formed form volcanoes on the moon’s surface, concluded the interior of the moon is wet.

‘The deposits of volcanic glass beads on the moon are quite large’, Ralph Milliken, lead author of the new research and a professor at Brown University in Rhode Island told MailOnline at the time.

‘The beads would need to be heated to high temperatures to extract the water, and then any vapor that comes out could be condensed to liquid’, he said.

But Dr Day is unsure of these results.

The researchers studied a sample of 'rusty rock', brought back from the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. 'It's the only rock from the moon that came back with what appeared to be rust on its outer surfaces,' Dr Day said

The researchers studied a sample of ‘rusty rock’, brought back from the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. ‘It’s the only rock from the moon that came back with what appeared to be rust on its outer surfaces,’ Dr Day said

‘Their study says that all of the glass bead deposits on the lunar surface are ‘wet,’ which is a great observation. However, they cannot elucidate the mechanism of their formation,’ he said.

Carrie McIntosh, a PhD student in Dr Day’s lab, is studying these glass beads and the composition of the deposits at the moment.

‘That’s where we’re going next,’ Dr Day said. ‘It seems like the logical next step to try and solve this problem.’

Posted on; DailyMail>>

Check Also

Charlotte Avery, president of the Girls' Schools Association, believes children are being robbed of their childhood by inappropriate content on their phones

Girls’ school head warns of rise of the ‘screenager’

Charlotte Avery, president of the Girls' Schools Association and head of St Mary's School, Cambridge, says childhood is being eroded by access to inappropriate content online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *