Traces of moon water, discovered in rock samples taken from the lunar surface, could shed light on the origin of the planet as it relates to the Earth if the water’s contents share a common source with water found on the Blue Planet.
If scientists are able link moon water and Earth water, it would support the theory that the moon was formed in the nascent stages of the Earth’s own formation, likely from a giant impact some 4.5 billion years ago, according to researchers earlier this month at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Space.com reported.
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The moon water analysis was made possible through the six Apollo moon landing missions carried out by NASA over the years as well as three robotic sample-return missions performed by the Russians, during which time some 842 pounds of lunar rock and soil samples were reportedly collected.
To assess whether moon water and Earth water share a commonality, scientists will be analyzing rocks taken from the lunar highlands, which are believed to have been responsible for the moon magma ocean.
The focus of the research will be on the hydrogen isotopic composition of the water found within the rock’s apatite crystal structure — a calcium phosphate mineral that has the same volatile elements present in many igneous Earth rocks. The analysis will be carried out by a team led by Jessica Barnes, a PhD student studying planetary and space sciences at the Open University in the United Kingdom.
"Because of their relatively younger age, [the rocks] could have been derived from portions of the lunar interior that had received additional water after the moon's formation," co-author Mahesh Anand said at the Houston conference, Space.com noted.
The moon water will reportedly be collected by drilling an extremely small hole into the rock samples using a drill bit that is less than less than a tenth of a millimeter in diameter.
"By studying the isotopic composition of water present in these rocks, we can examine the history of water in the Earth-moon system closer to the time when these two planetary bodies formed," Anand added. "[They] have the potential to reveal the original history of water in the Earth-moon system because of their ancient age and close association with the lunar magma ocean crystallization products."
The research was published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters
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