A recent study has shed light on the origin of water on the Moon and suggests that waves of electrons in the Earth’s magnetotail could be responsible for generating frozen H2O on the lunar surface. While the presence of ice on the Moon has been known for some time, the source of this water has remained a mystery.
The research, led by Shai Li of the University of Hawaii, connects the presence of water on the Moon to the region around the Earth known as the magnetosphere. The magnetosphere acts as a shield, protecting the Earth from solar and cosmic particle radiation.
As the Moon orbits the Earth, it passes through the magnetotail, which is an elongated tail created by the solar wind pushing against the magnetosphere. This tail contains highly charged particles, including electrons and ions. The magnetotail shields the Moon from charged particles while still allowing light to reach the lunar surface.
The study, based on data collected by India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, observed that water formation on the Moon did not decrease as expected when it passed through the magnetotail. Previous studies had suggested that water formation on the lunar surface was primarily due to hydrogen ions in the solar winds. However, the researchers discovered that there must be additional sources of water formation in the magnetotail.
The researchers propose that high-energy electrons within the magnetotail react with the lunar soil, releasing trapped hydrogen that can then form water. Further investigation into the water content at the lunar poles during different points in the Moon’s passage through the magnetotail is planned to gain a better understanding of this process.
This research is significant as it helps scientists locate water sources on the Moon, which will be crucial for future long-term lunar missions and potentially the establishment of human settlements.
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