Moon Water: Apollo Astronauts Discover Plagioclase (VIDEO)

First Posted: Feb 19, 2013 07:55 AM EST

A new analysis of lunar samples brought back to the Earth by Apollo astronauts in the early 1970s indicates that the moon's interior may have been a little damp in the early days. While this might not be any 'Moon River,' per see, scientists are baffled about the current beliefs for the planet as deposit's left on the moons surface are typically comets, asteroids and other object that bare no moisture. Yet the findings, published online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, show mounting evidence that the moon once contained some "native" water.

Prevailing theories hold that the moon was created when a Mars-sized body crashed into the young Earth and broke off debris that eventually coalesced into a new entity. In the process, much of the water would have evaporated into space, leaving Earth's new satellite quite arid.

"It's thought that the moon's formation involved the materials getting very hot," said Paul Warren, a UCLAcosmochemist who was not involved in the new study. "It's usually assumed that little water would have survived through that."

Indeed, the samples returned by the Apollo missions that visited the lunar highlands seemed to confirm that Earth's cold, rocky companion was bone-dry, said University of Notre Dame geologist Hejiu Hui, who led the new analysis.

But in the last five years of study, this new notion has changed that. Scientists have used more advanced methods to look for increasingly tiny concentrations of water in glass beads that are thought to have been formed by volcanic eruptions in the moon's early days.

A type of rock called plagioclase, which is thought to have formed in a magma ocean inside the moon, was examined to further the study. Although the rocks later floated to the surface to form the crust, they contain a chemical time capsule from inside the young moon.

To further rule out any outside source of water, the team looked past the surface of these rocks and into their centers.

The samples should have been bone-dry, Hui said, but "somehow we still detect this amount of water, so that makes things interesting."

The findings could have interesting implications for theories about how the moon came to be, Warren said.

The findings also have implications for the moon's geological evolution, Warren said. Researchers have reconstructed the history of the moon's crustal formation while assuming there were negligible amounts of water involved. Now scientists may need to reevaluate some of those ideas.

Knowing how much water there is could be handy for future explorers. "Someday, when we put men on the moon in a more permanent way, we might need that water," Warren said.

Is there really water on the moon? Check out this video to see, courtesy of YouTube.

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