Saturday, 16 January, 2021


Scientists discover the Moon is rusting

Map of hematite on the Moon. Image credit Li et al doi 10.1126 Map of hematite on the Moon. Image credit Li et al doi 10.1126
Kristine Garrett | 05 September, 2020, 18:14

To make this discovery, Li, HIGP professor Paul Lucey and co-authors from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and elsewhere analyzed the hyperspectral reflectance data acquired by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) designed by NASA JPL onboard India's Chandrayaan-1 mission.

"At first, I totally didn't believe it".

A new paper in Science Advances reviews data from the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, which discovered water ice and mapped out a variety of minerals while surveying the Moon's surface in 2008. This should not have happened based on the conditions on the moon.

The hydrogen atoms that come with these solar winds leave electrons on the surface, while iron oxidation can only occur when the electron is low.

Earth's magnetic field - which is officially called a magnetotail - trails behind the planet as it speeds through space, orbiting our Sun. There are plenty of iron-rich rocks on the moon - but rust is only produced when iron is exposed to oxygen and water.

"It's very puzzling", stated Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii, the lead author of the research study, which was released on ... "The Moon is a awful environment for hematite to form in". As more haematite exists on the lunar nearside, there's a chance that it may be related to Earth. The moon enters this tail three days before it's full, and it takes six days to cross the tail and exit on the other side.

Although the Moon does not have an atmosphere, it does have tiny bits of oxygen present because of the Earth's magnetic field.

During these six days, Earth's magnetic tail covers the moon's surface with electrons, and all sorts of unusual things can happen.

The magnetic tail also blocks almost all the solar winds during a full moon - meaning the moon is temporarily shielded from an explosion of hydrogen, which opens a window for rust formation. That data could also help explain another mystery: why smaller quantities of hematite are also forming on the far side of the Moon, where the Earth's oxygen shouldn't be able to reach it.

The magnetotail also helps carry Earth's upper atmosphere oxygen to the Moon that helps the formation of rust.

A Planetary science expert at the University of Hawaii, Shuai Li, says that the formation of hematite on the moon surface is surprising because the Earth's satellite constantly suffers from the sun's solar winds.

"This discovery will reshape our knowledge about the Moon's polar regions", he added.

Li proposes that fast-moving dust particles that regularly pelt the Moon could release these surface-borne water molecules, mixing them with iron in the lunar soil.

It is also possible that more oxygen was transferred to the Moon when it was closer to the Earth, as the two bodies have been moving further away from each other for billions of years. It also remains unclear how exactly the water on the moon interacts with rocks.

According to scientists, these changes can be due to the signs of hematite on the moon are mostly found where previously there were ice deposits.

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