Thursday, May 26, 2011

Moon rocks yield watery secrets

Scientists shocked lunar moisture skeptics in 2009 when NASA announced that it had found water. Now, new research out of Brown University in Providence, R.I., suggests that the moon could be soaked.

After testing tiny bits of molten rock from volcanic glass deposits sampled during NASA’s Apollo missions, the Brown researchers found traces of water in lunar magma that dwarfed prior samples. Their report, published in Thursday’s issue of Science Express, corroborates a theory team member and Brown geologist Alberto Saal published in the journal Nature in 2008. Saal hypothesized that the moon’s magma would contain quantities of water comparable to those found in magma on Earth.

“We had predicted 20-100 times more [water than was previously seen],” team member and geochemist James Van Orman said. “That was a controversial thing.”

Van Orman’s group tested the samples, referred to as “lunar melt inclusions,” with a NanoSIMS 50L ion microprobe, a sensor using an accelerated particle beam to measure water.

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