If you’re into the outer space side of science, you might agree that one of the most tiresome, yet profoundly exciting subjects is that of water on the Moon. Decades of questions have ended in frustration, though recent years have provided overwhelmingly positive evidence, with much of the visible proof on the South Pole, in giant ice deposits. And with no sign of an extraterrestrial snowcone stand around, that must mean it was there already.
Speaking of things being there already, you know those Moon rocks that came back with the Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s? For a study in Nature Geoscience, researcher Hejiu Hui from the University of Notre Dame revealed that infrared spectrometer tests recently showed that every rock taken from the Moon’s surface had water traces in it, including the famed “Genesis Rock.” Of course, we’re not talking about tap water or anything, but the chemical hydroxyl, which contains both the hydrogen and oxygen elements needed to produce water.
Because the hydroxyl is embedded so deep within the rocks, it’s assumed this means water has been on the Moon for all these years. Previous theories of its formation assumed it came into being as a big debris-ball after a Mars-sized asteroid collided with the Earth in its early years, a process that should have sent any remaining hydrogen hurtling into space. This theory has persisted as long as it has due to lower levels of efficiency in the instruments used to test the rocks soon after they were brought back. While early spectrometers could pick out chemicals at 50 parts per million (ppm), the current devices can detect 6 ppm in the anorthosites which form on the lower crust, and as low as 2.7 ppm in the upper crust rocks called Troctolites. This all means that the Moon’s rocks may have taken much longer to crystallize than research had previously shown.
“I still think the impact scenario is the best formation scenario for the moon, but we need to reconcile the theory of hydrogen,” said Hui. It’s not every day you discover something that forces you to reconsider what you thought you knew about a common element. Now if only they could find some vodka on the Moon.