Moon water most likely originated from comets

in Water

Some discoveries in space science have changed the established thoughts and paved ways for unanswered questions of fundamental science. The recent analysis of Moon water is an indication to the ground breaking answers, regarding origin of Moon water and Earth's mystery regarding sea water.

A research by Wesleyan University in Middletown, USA, indicates that water on the Moon must have probably originated from the comets that showered on the Moon and scratched Moon's surface after its formation.

Prof. James Greenwood is the study leader of this research. He is a professor in the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, at Wesleyan University in Middletown.

When he and his colleagues analyzed the water in rock samples, collected by NASA astronauts during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, and 17 missions that landed on the Moon between 1969 and 1972, they found that the chemical properties of the lunar aqua were very similar to those that had been evaluated in three comets: Hyakutake, Hale-Bopp and Halley.

Chemical formation of Moon water differs from the Earth water
The analysis showed that Apatite, a lunar mineral has a ratio of the deuterium and hydrogen that are distinctive from those in normal Earth water.

Emphasizing this discovery he said, "The values of deuterium/hydrogen (D/H) that we measure in apatite in the Apollo rock samples is clearly distinguishable from water from the Earth, mitigating against this being some sort of contamination on Earth. Only comets and a few meteorites have D/H values that are similar."

Origin of sea water
On Earth, water from the planet's interior mantle has similar chemical properties, as water that is found in the majority of meteorites. This implies that the chemical composition of the ancient proto-Earth mantle is similar to the composition of planet's mantle, as it is today.

Prof. Greenwood is trying to find a solution to Earth's sea water mystery that may have an answer, in comets that showered on Earth, as he said, "We don't know why the Earth's oceans have an elevated D/H relative to the Earth's mantle water. A significant cometary input would explain it."

He also said, "If comets delivered the majority of water to the moon, an inescapable result is that the Earth also received a large cometary input to its oceans."

"This may end up solving one of the great questions of our field, namely the origins of the Earth's oceans," he added.

Importance of this theory
The established theory about Moon's birth is that, millions of years ago a Mars-sized body smashed into Earth, ejecting material that eventually united to become the Moon.

The deuterium and hydrogen content in lunar water may have formed during this impact. If it is so, then the chemical structure should be more or less same at every place on the Moon. But, the researchers found dissimilarities in the water signature levels of the lunar highland samples and lunar mare samples.


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Greenwood said, "We have just scratched the surface here, and there are many more moon rocks to study as a result of the Apollo program. The first step is to continue to analyze a range of lunar samples to measure their water content and deuterium/hydrogen signature to fully understand this important, new reservoir of solar system water."


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Moon water most likely originated from comets

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This article was published on 2011/01/11
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