Earth And Moon Share Water Source | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 91 Issue 19 | p. 41 | Concentrates
Issue Date: May 13, 2013

Earth And Moon Share Water Source

Water in ancient lunar rocks has isotopic ratio similar to Earth’s
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Analytical SCENE
Keywords: moon, water, isotopes
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A 30-μm-diameter lunar melt inclusion from an Apollo 17 mission sample contains water resembling that found on Earth.
Credit: John Armstrong/Geophysical Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
This is a micrograph of a 30-micron diameter lunar melt inclusion from an Apollo 17 mission sample.
 
A 30-μm-diameter lunar melt inclusion from an Apollo 17 mission sample contains water resembling that found on Earth.
Credit: John Armstrong/Geophysical Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Two years ago, scientists discovered that bubbles of preserved magma in ancient rocks on Earth’s moon contained large amounts of water, a finding that contradicted the notion that the moon has always been bone-dry. Now, the same group, headed by Alberto E. Saal of Brown University, finds that this lunar water has the same isotopic composition as water on Earth, implying that Earth and its moon have a common water source (Science 2013, DOI: 10.1126/science.1235142 ). The group examined samples of moon rocks returned to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions. Earth’s water is believed to have been seeded by carbonaceous chondrites, which are common meteorites hailing from an asteroid belt near Jupiter. Because the moon was likely formed from debris flung from the impact of a Mars-sized asteroid on the nascent Earth, the new finding suggests that Earth was already wet at the time of impact. Researchers have also assumed that the moon’s lighter elements, such as hydrogen, would have boiled off into space after the impact, but this idea may need to be rethought, the authors say.

 
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