UT scientists say water on the moon is from solar winds

UT scientists say water on the moon is from solar winds

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The lunar rock samples the scientists examined. The lunar rock samples the scientists examined.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Researchers at the University of Tennessee that solar winds are the source of water on the moon.

Three years ago the same researchers helped to discover water on the surface of the moon.

Now, in a new study published in this month's "Nature Geoscience", the group has confirmed solar wind as a source for that water embedded in the lunar surface.

Scientists have speculated that the flow of charged particles coming from the sun is responsible for water on the surface of the moon. 

Last year Larry Taylor, distinguished professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, confirmed comets as the source for water inside and within the moon.

This year, Yang Liu, a research assistant professor, and Taylor have confirmed solar wind as the source for water on the outside - by depositing positively-charged hydrogen atoms, or protons, onto its surface, which combine with the moon's oxygen to create water. 

"When those protons hit the lunar surface with enough force, they break apart oxygen bonds in soil materials to join together and form water," said Liu. "This does not happen on Earth because our atmosphere and magnetic field protect us from being bombarded by these protons, but the moon lacks this protection."

The researchers used lunar samples from three Apollo missions, including one brought back by Neil Armstrong.

The researchers say their findings emphasize the possibility of finding water on the surface of other similar airless bodies.

"This means water likely exists on Mercury and on the asteroids such as Vesta or Eros further within our solar system," said Liu. "These planetary bodies have very different environments, but all have potential to produce water. The finding also implies solar-wind contributes to water ice in lunar poles." 

The research also identified where the largest reservoir for water is on the lunar surface, giving the moon the potential to serve as a habitat and gas station in the sky.

"With the cost of $25,000 for taking one pint of water to the moon, water has the potential to be used as rocket fuel as liquid hydrogen or oxygen," said Taylor.

Liu and Taylor collaborated with researchers from the California Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan on the study.
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