Over the years, there have been countless speculations and debates about whether or not there is water on the moon. However, these speculations were put to rest when a team of scientists from the Tohoku University, Japan found a mineral called Moganite inside a lunar meteorite in a Northwest African desert.
The reason for their claim about the existence of water on the moon is that this mineral requires water to be able to form and thus, it is a given that moon, does indeed, contain water.
"Moganite is a crystal of silicon dioxide and is similar to quartz. It forms on Earth as a precipitate when alkaline water including SiO2 is evaporated under high-pressure conditions. The existence of moganite strongly implies that there is water activity on the Moon," said Masahiro Kayama from the Tohoku University who led this study.
Kayama sampled 13 different lunar meteorites with his team and used sophisticated techniques in order to determine and analyze chemical structures and compositions of their minerals. These included methods such as micro-Raman spectroscopy and electron microscopy.
Only one of these 13 samples contained Moganite. This confirmed the theory of the researchers that there is no way this meteorite could have formed in the northwest African desert.
"If terrestrial weathering had produced moganite in the lunar meteorite, there should be moganite present in all the samples that fell to Earth around the same time. But this was not the case,” Kayama added.
This is the very first time that scientists have detected Moganite in any lunar rock. The theory of Japanese researchers is that these meteorites that were found in the African desert probably came from Procellarum Terrane (an area of the moon).
They further opine that formation of Moganite took place due to the evaporation of water in the intense sunlight. The working theory of Kayama is that there could be an abundance of crystals of water ice, deep under the surface of the moon and protected from the sun.
There have been several space missions in the past that have found proof of lunar ice or water concentrated at the poles. However, this is the first time that scientists have found solid evidence of the presence of abundant water ice at the mid and lower latitudes of the lunar subsurface.
According to the estimates provided by Kayama’s team, there is about a 0.6 weight percent of water present in the lunar soil. If their estimates are accurate, future explorers who land on the moon would undoubtedly have much easier access to the resource.
This would also significantly increase the possibility of there being human settlement and infrastructure on the moon. In the next few decades, there might even be humans on the lunar soil.
"Solar wind-induced water can give us new insight into the history of sun activity, and volcanic water provides us with information of lunar evolution together with water. It's all very exciting," said Kayama.