Scientists Believe The Moon Is Now Rusting
The Moon’s surface has started to turn red, leading scientists to believe the planet may be rusting.
Rust – or iron oxide – is created when iron comes into contact with water and oxygen; two things the moon does not have. This has left the researchers at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) who obtained the data puzzled as to how it has been created.
A reddish-black mineral form of iron called hematite has been discovered to be forming, especially near the Moon’s poles, which is giving it this unique colouring. Lead author of the paper detailing the discovery is Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii, who described the findings ‘very puzzling’. He added that ‘the Moon is a terrible environment for hematite to form in’.
Li then turned to JPL scientists Abigail Fraeman and Vivian Sun to see if they could help.
In a statement to NASA, Fraeman said:
At first, I totally didn’t believe it. It shouldn’t exist based on the conditions present on the Moon. But since we discovered water on the Moon, people have been speculating that there could be a greater variety of minerals than we realise if that water had reacted with rocks.
After taking a close look, Fraeman and Sun confirmed that Li’s data did indeed indicate the presence of hematite at the lunar poles.
Sun said, ‘In the end, the spectra were convincingly hematite-bearing, and there needed to be an explanation for why it’s on the Moon.’
The data found that the Moon had more hematite present on its Earth-facing side, which Li believes could be due to traces of Earth’s oxygen. According to NASA, the Moon has been moving away from Earth for billions of years, so it could be possible that some of Earth’s oxygen transferred over when the two planets were closer to each other.
In regards to the water needed to form rust, while the majority of the Moon is bone dry, there has been water ice discovered on it; however, this is located on the opposite side to where the hematite was found. With this in mind, Li proposes that fast-moving dust particles that regularly pelt the Moon could release its surface-borne water molecules that are present across the whole planet, mixing them with iron in the lunar soil.
Following his findings, Li has dubbed it an exciting time for lunar science.
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