Print 30 comment(s) - last by niva.. on Jan 14 at 3:01 PM

New theories suggest water may have always had a presence on the moon due to its materials colliding with comets

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, researchers have studied the existence of water on the moon and discovered its origins. 

Larry Taylor, study leader and a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, along with a team of researchers, have found where the water on the moon originated.  

Taylor was not only able to trace the lunar water's origins, but he was the one who discovered that the moon even had water in the first place. This lunar water discovery he made last year changed all beliefs that the moon was completely dry.

Since this discovery, researchers also found that the moon has an abundance of water. So much, in fact, that humans could possibly live on the moon. Now, Taylor has found the origins of all this lunar water.  

Taylor and his team believe the water came from comets crashing into the moon shortly after it formed. They came to this conclusion after studying rocks that were retrieved from the Apollo mission. The team then measured the rocks' water signatures through the use of secondary ion mass spectrometry, which could allow researchers to tell where and when the lunar water originated.  

As it turns out, water on the moon is different from water on Earth. This discovery led to the belief that comets supplied the moon with a majority of its water back when it originally formed.  

It is believed that the moon formed when the nascent Earth and Theia collided, sending materials out into space. These materials created the moon, and according to Taylor's theory, comets were hitting both the moon and Earth. But because the Earth already had an abundance of water, it was not affected by these comet collisions and did not acquire enough of the comets water for it to be integrated into its original water system. But the moon, which was dry at this point, received a majority of its water via comet collisions.  

"This discovery forces us to go back to square one on the whole formation of the Earth and moon," said Taylor. "Before our research, we thought the Earth and moon had the same volatiles after the Giant Impact, just at greatly different quantities. Our work brings to light another component in the formation that we had not anticipated - comets." 

Taylor's new theory of how the moon formed suggests that water has been present throughout the moon's entire history. While comets supplied the moon's internal supply of water, solar winds supplied the moon's external supply of water.  

What makes the water on the moon different from water on Earth is that it contains the ingredients for water - hydrogen and oxygen - but is not yet water. If the rocks on the moon were heated up, the ingredients would turn into water.  

"This water could allow the moon to be a gas station in the sky," said Taylor. "Spaceships use up to 85 percent of their fuel getting away from Earth's gravity. This means the moon can act as a stepping stone to other planets. Missions can fuel up at the moon, with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen from the water, as they head into deeper space to other places such as Mars." 

This study was published in Nature Geoscience.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

And the science stops...oh, right about, here.
By SiliconJon on 1/13/2011 4:13:27 PM , Rating: 3
The water is different because it's not yet water?

Well, let me just focus on actual water. What's with all this "comets gave us water" stuff? I mean, sure, comets can carry H2O to a surface, but where did the water from the comets come from? Is water being produced by a solar-system event or function early in its life, or is the water produced by a more stellar event prior to the formation of our solar system and thus left over even after the solar system's initial creation? And if that water, existing before the comets and the fuel for the comets themselves, is abundant even after our solar system initially forms would it not provide the solar system 99.whatever% of it's water, and comets are merely splashes or spills minute in quantity compared to the original source of water present in our system?

By SiliconJon on 1/13/2011 4:18:22 PM , Rating: 3
In case I wasn't clear absent an articulated transition back into my title, the science just seems to often abruptly stop in to many theories. I understand science is generally stepping stones, so I have no problem in marking the way points, but this case in point seems to be the following:

Comets are made of ice
Comets hit planets, moons, etc
Ice is deposited on impacted surface
Therefore ice is from comets

Am I in the minority in feeling as though that abrupt stop is, um, lacking?

By niva on 1/14/2011 3:01:18 PM , Rating: 2
At the temperatures present on the Earth the only thing required for water formation is Hydrogen and Oxygen. these are elements that the universe is made out of. Because the Moon's temperatures are vastly different form the Earth's, water doesn't just form into nice neat puddles. The theory is that when comets crashed into the moon large chunks of already solidified water (ice) got vaporized or even atomically decomposed into the basic elements. Because of the heat cycles on the moon the remaining water gets evaporated but remain's in orbit until the moon cools down then freezes.

The only areas on the moon where the water can stay frozen constantly is around the poles and into really deep craters. Eventually water vapors find their way into there and forever remain as ice until we go and collect it for our own nefarious purposes.

Ice in comets doesn't just have to be water by the way.

Where do comets come form? God created them of course!

I keed, I keed!

RE: And the science stops...oh, right about, here.
By DanNeely on 1/13/2011 4:36:20 PM , Rating: 2
The water would have different hydrogen/oxygen ratios.

What I find interesting here is that most of the big impact models I've read about had the earths initial water all boiled off in the impact. If the Earth's water is significantly different isotopicically that would mean that somehow it managed to hold onto a large chunk of its water despite and impact energetic enough to vaporize the crust.

By AssBall on 1/13/2011 7:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
What do you mean by "boiled off" exactly? Even assuming most of the water was vaporized and ejected from our atmosphere in an impact, it still hangs about in our gravity well and in our orbit, and gets re-assimilated over hundreds of millions of years on earth and the moon.

By MozeeToby on 1/13/2011 5:56:32 PM , Rating: 2
Water is quite literally everywhere in the universe (at the very least, the galaxy). When a star starts running out of hydrogen to fuse into helium, other fusion reactions take place and produce several different elements including Oxygen. When a star goes supernova or otherwise ejects material, some of this Oxygen escapes into space where it reacts with the solar wind (in the form of Beta particles, a.k.a. protons) to form water.

As to where water on Earth comes from, there are a lot of theories and the reality is probably a combination of them all. Leaching out of rocks where it's been since the Earth's formation is definitely on the list, and it seems completely be in line with what you're saying. It seems likely that at least some of the water on Earth and the moon originated from comets though, given the sheer number of impacts the moon has seen at least some of them probably deposited water near the surface, which is good news for us if we ever want to live there.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki