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Moon may have more water trapped under its surface

New Delhi : The Moon's interior may contain water, much more than previously thought, a bunch of scientists in the United States has said. The team was able to confirm that Moon has huge water resources trapped under its surface thanks to data from India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter.

While previous studies have hinted at the possibility of water, or water-like substances on the lunar landscape, using satellite data, researchers from Brown University have for the first time detected widespread water within ancient explosive volcanic deposits on the Moon, suggesting that its interior contains substantial amounts of indigenous water.

The finding of water in these ancient deposits, which are believed to consist of glass beads formed by the explosive eruption of magma coming from the deep lunar interior, bolsters the idea that the lunar mantle is surprisingly water-rich.

Scientists had assumed for years that the interior of the Moon had been largely depleted of water and other volatile compounds. That began to change in 2008, when a research team including Brown University geologist Alberto Saal detected trace amounts of water in some of the volcanic glass beads brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions to the Moon.

In 2011, further study of tiny crystalline formations within those beads revealed that they actually contain similar amounts of water as some basalts on Earth. That suggests that the Moon’s mantle — parts of it, at least — contain as much water as Earth’s.

“The key question is whether those Apollo samples represent the bulk conditions of the lunar interior or instead represent unusual or perhaps anomalous water-rich regions within an otherwise ‘dry’ mantle,” said Ralph Milliken, lead author of the new research and an associate professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.

“By looking at the orbital data, we can examine the large pyroclastic deposits on the Moon that were never sampled by the Apollo or Luna missions. The fact that nearly all of them exhibit signatures of water suggests that the Apollo samples are not anomalous, so it may be that the bulk interior of the Moon is wet.”

The idea that the interior of the Moon is water-rich raises interesting questions about the Moon’s formation. Scientists think the Moon formed from debris left behind after an object about the size of Mars slammed into the Earth very early in solar system history.

One of the reasons scientists had assumed the Moon’s interior should be dry is that it seems unlikely that any of the hydrogen needed to form water could have survived the heat of that impact.

In addition to shedding light on the water story in the early solar system, the research could also have implications for future lunar exploration. The volcanic beads don’t contain a lot of water — about 0.05 per cent by weight, the researchers say — but the deposits are large, and the water could potentially be extracted.

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