Before complex life evolved on our planet, volcanoes on the Moon Water spewed water vapor across the lunar surface that likely still exists as frost and ice in its craters.
It could be the perfect drinking water for astronauts, say the authors of a new study published this month in The Planetary Science Journal.
If may even have been possible to see a sliver of frost on the M0on’s terminator—the divider between sunlight and darkness (so, day and night) —though no humans were around at the time.
The research looks at simulations of the moon’s water going back billions of years.
Back then, according to their models, the Moon Water experienced a massive volcanic eruption roughly every 22,000 years, covering its surface in pools of lava. “They dwarf almost all of the eruptions on Earth,” said study co-author Paul Hayne, assistant professor at the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder (University of Colorado Boulder).
You can see them today as the dark patches on the near side of the Moon, which are known as maria. They have names like Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity), Mare Crisum (Sea of Crises), and Mare Tranquillitatatis (Sea of Tranquility). It’s thought they were caused by massive asteroid impacts on the far side of the Moon Water.
However, this new research suggests that volcanoes may have left sheets of ice around the Moon’s poles perhaps dozens or even hundreds of feet thick.
“We envision it as a frost on the Moon Water that built up over time,” said Andrew Wilcoski, lead author of the new study and a graduate student at CU Boulder.
This is good news for future astronauts, who will need water to drink—and perhaps even to process into rocket fuel.
We’ve known for some time that The moon has water, but the authors of this new research say it could be more substantial than suspected. “It’s possible that 5 or 10 meters below the surface, you have big sheets of ice,” said Hayne.
This new frost theory comes in the wake of more evidence that lunar volcanoes may have ejected clouds of mostly carbon monoxide and water vapor, which may have created a thin atmosphere for a short time.
The new research theorizes that about 41% of the water from its volcanoes may have condensed onto the Moon as ice. In total, about 18 quadrillion pounds of volcanic water could have condensed as ice on the Moon.
However, there is one small problem with recommending future astronauts go looking for old Mon water to drink. As well as being mostly neat the Moon’s north and south poles, it’s probably buried under several feet of regolith—Moondust.
Some researchers think that older ice could have been sourced from water-bearing comets and asteroids hitting the moon, while newer water ice might come from bombardment from pea-sized micrometeorites.