One of the most important aspects of space exploration is to discover whether or not there is any water on other planets. While then search for water on planets is still on, the hydrogen-oxygen compound which ultimately becomes the source of life was discovered on a very unlikely candidate- the moon. In earlier stages of space research, the moon was always considered to be dry and barren space rock, owing to its lack of atmosphere, harsh temperatures and environment. But stillwater was on the planet, bound or solidified into other structures. Now the question arises, how did it get there?
Most of the lunar water is in the form of ice (frozen lakes in craters) or bound in solidified volcanic rocks. A theory suggests that solar winds impacted positively charged hydrogen ions on the lunar surface. This created water (as hydroxyl (OH-) and molecular (H2O)). But a new study suggests we should not be giving all the credit to the mighty Sun. Our very own planet might have played a role in it.
According to the new study, planets have the potential to seed their natural satellites with water. So, Earth might be the reason why water formed on the moon.
Water has been found in so many places- Mars to Jupiter's moons and Saturn's rings, comets, asteroids and Pluto. There are even traces of water in stray cosmic clouds beyond our solar system. One theory noted that when the solar system was still forming, water was integrated into these surfaces. But it might be a little more complex than that.
A computer model simulation showed that half of the moon’s surface water should ideally evaporate and disappear at high-latitude regions during the approximately three days of the full moon when it passes within Earth's magnetosphere, according to Phys.org.
Maps by India’s Chandrayaan-1 were analysed to reveal that doesn’t actually happen. Instead of influencing loss of water, the magnetosphere influences something called the “earth winds” that helps in replenishing any water loss.
Using Kaguya satellite, researchers observed high concentrations of oxygen isotopes during the full moon which leaked out of Earth's ozone layer. These get embedded in lunar soil along with hydrogen ions from Earth’s exosphere. They also noticed the combined flows of magnetosphere particles is starkly different than solar winds. Therefore, the magnetosphere creates something like a “water bridge” to keep replenishing the moon with water. There it remains frozen mostly due to the surface environment.
These findings, which were published in the journal Letters, can be useful in future water research. The fact that planets’ magnetosphere, combined with solar winds, can influence water on their satellites is a path-breaking discovery and can help analyse the evolution of water in space.