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Research Suggests Moon Might Contain Water

July 10, 2008

By Kevin Mayhood, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jul. 9–There may be water inside the moon, according to new research.

A study published today in the journal Nature shakes up long-held assumptions that the moon is dry.

This discovery suggests that there was — and still could be — water deep inside the moon. In fact, the researchers say glass beads collected by Apollo astronauts nearly 35 years ago contain as much water as collected from ocean ridges on Earth.

The beads were formed by lunar volcanoes that erupted on the moon’s surface, according to the researchers who used ion beams and a mass spectrometer to measure water concentrations as high as 46 parts per million inside the beads.

Alberto Saal, a geology professor at Brown University, and Erik Hauri, of the Carnegie Institute for Science’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, have spent most of their careers studying Earth but decided to give the moon samples a try.

They were joined by James Van Orman, a geology professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who developed a model that simulates what happened to water on the moon.

His model indicates that as much as 95 percent of the water was lost in volcanic heat and the rest trapped in glass.

“The surprising thing is the (total) water content inferred from this is as high as that in the Earth,” Van Orman said.

All this means that ice, which satellite images suggest covers the moon’s poles, might have come from water inside the moon itself.

kmayhood@dispatch.com

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