A recent discovery on the Moon intrigues scientists. Haematite was found on the lunar surface, which is quite impossible because there’s practically no air on the Moon. Also, there’s only water ice, no sign of liquid water.
The haematite is an oxidized form of iron that, here on our planet, needs the presence of both air and water to form. So, now you can understand why the recent discovery is so odd.
A team of scientists, however, joined their forces and tried to find the most plausible reasons. Here is what you need to know.
Haematite on the Moon: the Possibilities
The haematite in question was found in data collected by the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory utilizes some hyperspectral imaging. Such a technique is necessary to realize a granular spectroscopic survey, offering a detailed breakdown of the Moon’s ground mineral composition.
Planetary scientist Shuai Li from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and his team discovered ice deposits of high latitudes around the lunar poles back in 2018. But, when he was investigating the data, Li found something strange. He said: “[…] After months of investigation, I figured out I was seeing the signature of haematite.”
So, how could such an element did end up there? A big hint could be in how the haematite is distributed. It somehow matches the traces of water previously found and linked to impacts. Scientists think that water ice could be mixed in with the lunar regolith, and dug and melted during impact events.
Another curious and intriguing aspect is that the haematite is also mostly seen on the Moon’s side that is always facing our planet. And how could scientists explain such a thing?
Our satellite is in our planet’s magnetotail, the magnetosphere’s trailing area away from the Sun during the full Moon. At these times, more than 99 % of the solar wind is stopped from reaching the Moon. It means that the troublesome hydrogen lowering agent isn’t getting all up in the oxidation process.
Furthermore, if those three elements are mixed – a minute quantity of molecular water, a minute quantity of oxygen, and a brief window of time monthly in which rust can form – and we wait for a few billion years, we can get haematite on the Moon. But, such a thing doesn’t mean the mystery is solved.
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