Water spewed from Moon during meteor showers

Enlarge ImageNASA wants to send people to explore the moon's South Pole.                  NASA

Enlarge ImageNASA wants to send people to explore the moon's South Pole. NASA

And more recently, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has also detected evidence of "bouncing water molecules" on the surface.

Benna and his colleagues described their discovery this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Scientists have discovered that water is being released from the moon during meteor showers.

Scientists knew that the water plumes corresponded to times when meteorite streams were present.

The researchers estimate that meteorite impacts on the Moon cause the loss of as much as 200 tonnes (220 tons) of water per year.

NASA researchers found that meteorite blasts across the surface of the moon are powerful enough to force tiny drops of water out of the dusty lunar soil and into the atmosphere above.

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"Most of the geological processes we deal with in planetary science are very slow - we nearly never get to see something respond dynamically over the scale of hours like we did here", lead author Mehdi Benna, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told Space.com.

The data was collected by the US space agency NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), a robotic mission that orbited the Moon to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere.

In showing that the moon is simply a static orb, studies like this give us a new portrait of the moon as a rocky world alive with dynamic geological and chemical processes. If an impact is big enough, the shockwave will be large enough to breach through the soil's top layer that's mostly dry and release the water molecules from underneath.

One explanation is ionised hydrogen carried to the Moon on solar winds from the Sun could explain the presence of water.

Essentially, when debris from a comet in the form of a meteoroid hits the moon, it vaporises on impact.

Computer models previously predicted streams of meteoroids ejecting water from the moon's surface, but until now, the phenomenon hadn't been directly observed.

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"The Moon doesn't have significant amounts of H2O or OH in its atmosphere most of the time", Richard Elphic, the LADEE project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley said. "And then, when the event was over, the H2O or OH went away".

According to NASA, meteors need to penetrate the Moon's surface by at least three inches (eight centimetres) to release water.

The research means that trace amounts of water are dispersed across the surface of the Moon, which could be of huge interest and value to future space exploration missions.

The amounts of water detected by the sensors were far too high to have come from the meteorites themselves or from vaporized soil, the researchers suggest. As such, any water on the rocks was likely fragile and hard to hold onto during the return trips, Benna said.

The lunar expert said it dates back to the Moon's formation or was deposited there "early in its history". By analyzing this data, the team discerned a clear pattern between these water emissions and meteorite showers.

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