Scientists announced on Sunday they have found small particles of water on the earth's moon that come from an unusual source; the sun.
In a report published Sunday in Nature Geoscience, University of Tennessee scientist Dr Yang Liu, lead researcher of the study, said hydrogen transported in the solar wind combines with oxygen in the lunar soil to create the water particles.
According to Cosmos, water has been found on the Moon previously, primarily in craters and in the polar regions of the moon. However this report reveals the sun as a source which, until now, had never been proven.
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Liu and fellow researchers from the University of Michigan and California Institute of Technology came to their conclusion after they examined samples of lunar soil that was brought back to earth after the Apollo 11, 16 and 17 missions. After analyzing soil, they surmised that positively charged subatomic hydrogen proton particles coming from the solar wind appear to combine with oxygen on the moon's surface to form the OH hydroxyls. The result is an "unanticipated, abundant reservoir" of OH and water within the broken rocks, soil and dust on the moon surface.
Youxue Zhang, a professor from the University of Michigan, told UPI: "Our work shows that the 'water' component, the hydroxyl, is widespread in lunar materials, although not in the form of ice or liquid water that can easily be used in a future manned lunar base."
Liu continued by saying: "This also means that water likely exists on Mercury and on asteroids such as Vesta or Eros further within our solar system. These planetary bodies have very different environments, but all have the potential to produce water."Solar wind
The sun and its atmosphere consist of several zones or layers.
Universe Today describes solar winds as a constant stream of particles which are ejected from the Sun’s upper atmosphere and move outwards from the sun and through the solar system. The winds are generated from a region of the Sun’s upper atmosphere called the corona. Although the solar winds consists of ions of almost every element in the periodic table, 99.9 percent of it is made up of hydrogen and helium according to NASA.
Since Liu and fellow researches found the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium in their samples to be extremely low. They then concluded that the source most closely matches the ratio found in solar wind. In their released report, the researches state: "Our findings imply that ice in (lunar) polar cold traps could contain hydrogen atoms ultimately derived from the solar wind. We suggest that a similar mechanism may contribute to hydroxyl on the surfaces of other airless terrestrial bodies where the solar wind directly interacts with the surface, such as Mercury and the asteroid Vesta."
Australian National University researcher, Dr. Trevor Ireland, told ABC Science the conclusion is not surprising. "The lack of deuterium is the key. The Sun hasn't got any deuterium because it's a great nuclear fuel for fusing helium. Because the solar wind lacks deuterium, the corresponding deuterium depletion in the hydroxyl becomes the smoking gun."
He went on to say scientists believed solar wind could react with the lunar surface to produce water, but "but nobody had a way of proving it until this work."