PARIS: Scientists said on Monday they have discovered water inside tiny beads of glass scattered across the Moon, suggesting that one day it could be extracted and used by the “explorers of tomorrow”.
The Moon was long believed to be dry, but over the last few decades several missions have shown there is water both on the surface and trapped inside minerals. Mahesh Anand, a professor of planetary science and exploration at the UK´s Open University, told AFP that water molecules could be seen “hopping over the lunar surface” when it was sunny.
“But we didn´t know where exactly it was coming from,” said Anand, a co-author of a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The study, carried out by a team led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that the glass beads are “probably the dominant reservoir involved in the lunar surface water cycle”.
The team polished and analysed 117 glass beads which were scooped up by China´s Chang´e-5 spacecraft in December 2020 and brought back to Earth. The beads are formed by tiny meteorites that bombard the surface of the Moon, which lacks the protection of an atmosphere.
The heat of the impact melts the surface material, which cools into round glass beads around the width of a strand of hair. As well as finding water in the beads, the scientists detected “a telltale signature of the Sun,” Anand said. Investigating further, they determined that the hydrogen necessary to make up the water was coming from solar wind, which sweeps charged particles across the Solar System.