15.3 C
Thursday, March 30, 2023
HomeAstronomy & AstrophysicsIn the future, astronauts may be able to ingest lunar volcanic water

In the future, astronauts may be able to ingest lunar volcanic water

Side view of the crater Moltke taken from Apollo 10. Credit: Public Domain

Hundreds of millions of square miles of the moon’s surface were covered in molten lava billions of years ago during a series of lunar volcanic eruptions. Aeons ago, this lava formed the black patches known as maria, which give the moon’s surface its familiar appearance.

- Advertisement -

The poles of the moon are blanketed in ice sheets that, in some spots, may be hundreds of feet thick, according to new study from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

As main author Andrew Wilcoski, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) and Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), explained, “We view it as a frost on the moon that built up over time.”

- Advertisement -

The Planetary Science Journal, where he and his coworkers submitted their findings this month, has published their findings.

Computer simulations or models were used by the researchers in an attempt to recreate circumstances on the moon long before complex life emerged on Earth. They were successful. Moon volcanoes emitted enormous amounts of water vapour, which dropped on the surface and formed crater-dwelling glaciers, according to new research. Even a sliver of ice at the moon’s day-night boundary may have been visible to humans if they were alive at the time.

According to research co-author Paul Hayne, future moon travellers will need water for drinking and processing into rocket fuel.

According to Hayne, an assistant professor of APS and LASP, “it’s plausible that you have large sheets of ice 5 or 10 metres below the surface.”

The ambiance of the moment

New research reveals that the moon may have a lot more water than previously thought, and this study adds to the growing body of data. Nearly 6,000 square miles of the lunar surface could be capable of storing and retaining ice, mostly at the north and south poles, according to a 2020 study by Hayne and his colleagues. It’s not apparent where the water originated from in the first place.

As of right now, Hayne stated, “There are a lot of potential sources.”

This might be a huge one: Volcanoes. According to the planetary scientist, the moon was a chaotic area between 2 and 4 billion years ago. During this epoch, tens of thousands of volcanoes erupted across its surface, resulting in enormous rivers and lakes of lava, similar to those seen in Hawaii today, but considerably larger.

“They dwarf practically all the eruptions on Earth,” Hayne added.

Scientists at Houston’s Lunar and Planetary Institute have recently discovered that these volcanoes also emitted towering clouds of carbon monoxide and water vapour, based on their findings. It’s possible that thin atmospheres could form around the moon as a result of these clouds swirling around it.

They wondered if that same environment could have left ice on the moon’s surface, akin to frost accumulating on the ground during an autumn night.

The ice will never melt.

Researchers at LASP and the University of California set out to find out what happened on the moon’s surface billions of years ago, with the help of Margaret Landis, a LASP research associate.

A lunar explosion was estimated to occur once every 22,000 years during the moon’s most active period by the research team. Using this information, researchers were able to see how the moon’s volcanic gases may have changed throughout time. They also observed that the weather may have become frosty. More than 40% of the water emitted by volcanoes may have condensed onto the moon as ice, according to the group’s estimates

It took nearly a thousand years for the atmospheres to escape, meaning there was ample time for ice to form.

It’s possible that there was so much ice on the moon that you might have seen frost and thick polar ice caps from the surface of the planet. During that time period, the researchers estimate that up to 18 quadrillion pounds of volcanic water might have frozen into ice. That’s a lot more water than the Lake Michigan now has. According to recent findings, it’s possible that some of the lunar water is still around.

However, finding those ice cubes in orbit may not be as simple as it sounds. There is a good chance that the majority of the moon’s ice has accumulated near the poles, where it may be hidden behind several metres of regolith, the moon’s dust.

People or machines should go back and start excavating again, Hayne added.

To find it, “we really need to drill down and search for it,” he said.

Further information: Andrew X. Wilcoski et al, Polar Ice Accumulation from Volcanically Induced Transient Atmospheres on the Moon, The Planetary Science Journal (2022). DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/ac649c

Journal information: The Planetary Science Journal

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments