NASA’S scientists have found proof to suggest surface waters on the Moon have been hidden in plain sight for decades, according to a shocking lunar meteor impact study.
NASA researchers at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory believe powerful meteor showers release water vapour into the Moon’s atmosphere. The amount of water released depends on the size and frequency of impact but the discovery could solve a decades-old mystery. Until now, astronomers have been well-aware of lunar water at the Moon’s chilled polar caps, in some of its permanent surface shadows and within its ancient volcanic craters. And more recently, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has also detected evidence of “bouncing water molecules” on the surface.
In March this year, NASA said small batches of water around the surface were excited during lunar daytime enough to break away from the Moon’s surface.
Now, scientists are thrilled to learn more about how meteor streams help populate the Moon’s thin atmosphere with water vapour.
The incredible discovery was presented this week in the journal Nature Geosciences.
Lead author Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said the study has also helped identify four previously undetected meteor showers.
The water-releasing impacts occurred on January 9, April 2, April 5 and April 9 in 2014.
Dr Benna said: “We traced most of these events to known meteoroid streams, but the really surprising part is that we also found evidence of four meteoroid streams that were previously undiscovered.”
The spikes in the Moon’s atmospheric water levels were all recorded by NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).
The remote robotic instrument was sent to the Moon to study the lunar orb’s paper-thin atmosphere.