Evidence of Rust discovered on moon; sign of water

Areas of the Moon (in red) where hematite has been found. Via University of Hawaii.
Areas of the Moon (in red) where hematite has been found. 
Via University of Hawaii.

A recent analysis of data collected by the Indian mission Chandrayaan-1 has revealed the presence of rust on the Moon. Rust requires oxygen, water, and a number of extra conditions to form. The problem? That these conditions do not exist on the Moon. Now there are those who wonder if the Earth, at 384,400 km, is the cause of this oxide on the satellite.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii have studied data collected by the JPL Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which was aboard the Indian lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-1. This analyzed the Moon during 2008 and was able to identify that the poles of the satellite are different from the rest of the lunar surface. Among the differences found, it has now been possible to identify remains of rocks rich in iron with hematite. This mineral is a specific type of iron oxide that is normally found on Earth.

How do you detect such a specific mineral from space? analyzing the spectra. The probe collects the wavelengths of light reflected from the Moon’s surface and studies them. Each material reflects different wavelengths, in this case those from the Moon’s poles coincided with what hematite reflects here on Earth.

Earth, a possible culprit for rust on the Moon

The Moon in particular is one of the places scientists least expected to find rust . This is because oxygen is required to remove electrons from iron to make it oxidize. And of course, there is not on the Moon. In addition, the hydrogen that constantly hits the lunar surface due to the charged particles from the Sun makes this process even more reduced.

According to research, the cause of this rust could be none other than our own planet . The magnetic field between the Earth and the Moon may be the reason why Earth’s oxygen travels to the moon and causes this oxidation. A magnetic field that allows the particles to end up precisely at the Moon’s poles, something that was already known from previous research. In fact, with each full moon this magnetic field is stronger and blocks the solar wind thus allowing time for rust to form.

Poles of the Moon with the amount of hematite found in each of them. Via University of Hawaii
Poles of the Moon with the amount of hematite found in each of them. 
Via University of Hawaii

However, oxygen is not the only ingredient necessary for the formation of rust, water is also required . While frozen water is known to be in craters on the far side of the Moon, these are far from where hematite has been found. Scientists believe that dust on the Moon could be releasing water molecules trapped on the lunar surface in minute quantities. These molecules, in reaction with iron and the minimal oxygen coming from the Moon, would cause oxidation.

At the moment it is a hypothesis, one that although it seems impossible is not so far-fetched. Now, it is still very insignificant oxide levels if we compare it with Earth or Mars, which is not for nothing called the Red Planet . In any case, it is further proof that the Moon, although it is the closest star to us, is still full of surprises.

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