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Our Moon Could Be Conveniently Full of Water

“Hot spots” on this map of the Moon indicate volcanic flows with increased water content, presumably originating from the interior. (Credit: Milliken Lab/Brown University)

It’s been known for a while (especially since the 2009 LCROSS impact experiment) that there is water on the Moon. But so far the largest volume has been found as ice inside the shadowed walls of craters on the Moon’s south pole, likely originating from ancient comet impacts. Now, using data collected by India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar satellite, researchers from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island have identified water inside ancient pyroclastic flows located across the Moon’s surface—water that must have come from inside the Moon itself.

“We observe the water in deposits that are at the surface today, but these deposits are the result of magma that originally comes from deep within the lunar interior,” said Ralph Milliken, a geologist at Brown and lead author of the study. “Therefore, because the products of the magma have water, the deep interior of the Moon must also contain water.”

While the age and origin of this indigenous interior water aren’t yet known, its availability near the surface would be a valuable asset for any future human settlements on the Moon.

Read the rest of this article by Samantha Mathewson on Space.com here: The Moon’s Interior Could Contain Lots of Water, Study Shows

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Hubble Detects Dusty Shadows Hinting at a Hidden Exoplanet

Hubble images of a disk of gas and dust around a star 192 light-years away. The dark areas inside the disk are thought to be shadows cast by a raised portion of an inner disk, pulled upwards by an unseen exoplanet in an inclined orbit. Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Debes. (STScI)

When searching nearby stars for exoplanets, astronomers typically either look for the dimming of the stars’ light as planets pass in front of them or try to see if the stars themselves exhibit a slight wobble due to the gravitational tug of orbiting worlds. But recently scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have found a curious clue in the disk of gas and dust surrounding a star 192 light-years away: a long, darkened swath that orbits the star every 16 years and may indicate the presence of an orbiting planet.

“The fact that I saw the same motion over 10 billion miles from the star was pretty significant, and told me that I was seeing something that was imprinted on the outer disk rather than something that was happening directly in the disk itself,” said John Debes of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, leader of the research team. “The best explanation is that the feature is a shadow moving across the surface of the disk.”

Read the full story from NASA at Hubble Captures ‘Shadow Play’ Caused by Possible Planet

Solar Storms Set Off Tiny Explosions In Shadowed Lunar Soil

Powerful solar storms can charge up the soil in frigid, permanently shadowed regions near the lunar poles, and may possibly produce “sparks” that could vaporize and melt the soil—perhaps as much as meteoroid impacts, according to new NASA-funded research.

Read the rest of this article from NASA here: Solar Storms Could Spark Lunar Soil

The Moon’s Dark Seas Are Scars From Ancient Strikes—Even Bigger Than We Thought

Mare Imbrium, one of the large dark basalt "seas" on the Moon's near side. (Photo: J. Major)

Mare Imbrium—the “Sea of Rains”—one of the large dark basalt lava flows on the Moon’s near side. (Photo: J. Major)

When you look up at a full or full-ish Moon you can’t help but notice the large dark spots that mark its Earth-facing side. These form the face of what many call the “Man in the Moon” (or the body of a Moon rabbit, to others) and are individually called mare (“MAR-ay”) which is the Latin word for sea. Early astronomers thought they were bodies of water, but in reality they are solidified dark lava flows from ancient lunar impact events that occurred several billion years ago.

One of the biggest lunar seas, Mare Imbrium (see above), had for a while been thought to have been created by the impact of an asteroid or meteorite somewhere around 50 miles across, based solely on computer models.

Now, research conducted by Brown University professor Dr. Peter Schultz—a specialist in lunar and planetary impacts—indicates that the object that formed Mare Imbrium was likely more massive and of much larger size than once thought…perhaps even as big as 190 miles wide.

Read the rest of this entry

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