NASA-funded study suggests Moon’s interior is very dry

Rusty Rock, Moon sample

The Moon’s interior is likely very dry, a new scientific paper suggests.

To look for more clues about the origin of the Moon, the Earth’s lone natural satellite, the focus of scientists are now on its interior.

A new paper published by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego suggests that the Moon is likely very dry in its interior. The question of the Moon’s moistness matters to scientists because the amount of water (and other volatile elements and compounds there) provide clues to its history and how it was formed billions of years before the first man walked on its ground.

Lead author James Day, a geochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said that the moistness of the Moon has been a big question. “It might seem like a trivial thing,” he said.

“But this is actually quite important.” He added that if it is dry, which was the theory of many scientists for many decades now, then it would be consistent with the formation of the Moon in some sort of cataclysmic impact event that formed it.

The giant-impact hypothesis, sometimes called the Theia impact, suggests that the Earth’s natural satellite formed out of the debris left over from a collision between the young Earth and a planet the size of Mars, approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

Lead author Day said the results of their paper suggests that when the Moon formed, it was “very, very hot.” Essentially an “ocean of magma,” he revealed.

The team arrived at this conclusion after analyzing fragments of the so-called “Rusty Rock,” a sample collected from the lunar surface during the Apollo 16 mission in 1972.

Day and the rest of the team conclude it would have been so hot that any water, or other compounds and elements that are volatile under conditions on the Moon (e.g. zinc), would have evaporated very early in the Moon’s history.

The research was funded by the NASA Emerging Worlds program.

Note: The featured image shows the collection of the Rusty Rock, 66095, on the lunar surface by lunar module pilot, Charlie Duke and commander John Young. April 1972.



Qarla is a blogger, book author and a computer engineering undergraduate.

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