A mineral that can only exist in the presence of water has been found on a lunar meteorite, sparking debate as to whether or not there is water on the Moon. If there is water below the surface of the Moon, it could aid in human exploration of deep space.
Moganite, the mineral in question was found in a lunar meteorite found in northwestern Africa, notes a report by Space.com. A team of Japanese scientists have confirmed its presence. This could mean that the Moon could have reservoirs of water in the form of ice just below its surface. Moganite is a crystal of silicon dioxide and is similar to quartz. On Earth, it forms under specific circumstances in alkaline fluids, notes the report. This is the first time that moganite has been detected in lunar rocks.
"For the first time, we can prove that there is water ice in the lunar material," said Masahiro Kayama from the Department of Earth and Planetary Materials Science at Tohoku University who is leading a team of researchers on this project.
"In a moganite, there is less water, because moganite forms from the evaporation of water. That's the case on the surface of the moon. But in the subsurface, much water remains as ice, because it's protected from the sunlight," he explained.
If there is water on the Moon, it is likely to be near a region called the Procellarum Terrane. Water originally from the dirt on the Moon evaporated, notes the report, because of the intense sunlight that reaches its surface. Kayama and his team believe that there could be an abundant supply of water under the surface of the Moon.
This is the first time that scientists have found evidence of water in the Lunar subsurface at mid and lower latitudes. "Many people think that remote-sensing spacecraft only found the evidence of water around the poles simply because we can't see under the surface below a few millimeters," Kayama said. "This is the first insight into water in the subsurface zone."
The saturation of water in the Lunar soil is about 0.6 percent, that translates to about 6 liters per cubic meter of soil. "This value means that water is very abundant," said Kayama. "It would be enough for future astronauts and people that could perhaps live on the moon in the future to extract enough water to cover their needs."
The report, however notes that this is not the first time that water has been found on the Moon. India's Chandrayaan-1 probe recorded traces of water in the Moon's sparse atmosphere. Also, NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite detected a shadowed crater the Moon's south pole.