Water from the sun has been found on the moon

A new analysis of dust recovered from the moon suggests that water bound to the lunar surface could have come from the sun.

More specifically, it could be the result of hydrogen ions being bombarded by the solar wind, colliding with the lunar surface, interacting with metal oxides, and bonding with expelled oxygen. The result is water that can hide in lunar regolith in large quantities at mid- and high latitudes.

This has implications for our understanding of the source and distribution of water on the Moon – and may be relevant to our understanding of the origins of water on Earth.

The Moon looks like a very dry ball of dust, but recent studies have found that there is much more water out there than anyone ever suspected. Obviously, they don’t float in lakes and lakes. It is bound in lunar regolith, probably lurking as ice in permanently shadowed craters, and trapped in globules of obsidian.

This naturally leads to questions, such as exactly how much water is there? How is it distributed? Where did it come from? The last question probably has multiple answers.

Some of them may have been caused by asteroid impacts. some from the ground. However, one possible source is not the first thing that comes to mind when imagining cosmic rain clouds.

To be fair, the sun isn’t exactly dripping with moisture, but its winds are certainly a reliable source of high-velocity hydrogen ions. Evidence including analysis of lunar dirt from the Apollo missions has previously raised the strong possibility that the solar wind is responsible for at least some of the moon’s water components.

Now, a team of researchers led by geochemists Yuchen Xu and Heng Sitian of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has found chemistry in grains recovered by the Chang’e-5 mission that support a solar source for lunar water.

They studied 17 grains: 7 olivine, 1 pyroxene, 4 plagioclase, and 5 glass. These were all, unlike the low-latitude samples collected by Apollo and Luna, from a mid-latitude region on the Moon, and collected from the youngest known lunar volcanic basalts, from the driest basaltic basement.

Using Raman and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, they studied the chemical composition of the edges of these grains — the outer, 100 nanometer grain of the grain is more exposed to space weather and therefore more variable compared to the inner grain.

The majority of these edges showed a very high hydrogen concentration ranging from 1,116 to 2,516 ppm, and very low deuterium/hydrogen isotope ratios. These ratios are consistent with the ratios of these elements present in the solar wind, indicating that the solar wind collided with the moon, depositing hydrogen on the lunar surface.

They found that the solar wind-derived water content at the Chang’e-5 landing site should be about 46 parts per million. This corresponds to remote sensing measurements.

To determine whether hydrogen could be preserved in lunar minerals, the researchers then conducted heating experiments on some of their grains. They found that after burial, the grains could actually retain hydrogen.

Finally, the researchers ran simulations about the preservation of hydrogen in lunar soil at different temperatures. This revealed that temperature plays an important role in the infusing, migration, and outgassing of hydrogen on the Moon. This means that much of the water derived from the solar wind can be retained at mid- and high latitudes, where temperatures are cooler.

A model based on these findings suggests that the moon’s polar regions could be richer in water from the solar wind – information that could be very useful for planning future lunar exploration missions.

“The polar lunar soil could contain more water than the Chang’e-5 samples,” says cosmochemist Yangting Lin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“This discovery is of great importance for the future use of water resources on the Moon. Also, by sorting and heating the particles, the water in the lunar soil is relatively easy to exploit and use.”

Research published in PNAS.

#Water #sun #moon

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