In a perplexing finding, scientists have found signs of rusting on the surface of the Moon which is understood to have no presence of air or water in liquid form, which are key components in the formation of rust. While scientists have previously found evidence of rusting on the Mars planet as well due to the presence of Iron, water and air, the recent finding related to the presence of rust on the lunar surface has completely surprised the scientists’ community, ANI reported. The development came to light in the Science Advances reviews data collected from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan 1 orbiter. The same orbiter in the year 2008 had found the presence of ice water and a variety of minerals on the surface of the Moon.
Lead author of the research Shuai Li from the University of Hawaii who got the breakthrough has previously led extensive studies on the ice water found by the Chandrayaan 1’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument which is also known as M3. This time Li found that the spectra of the poles of the Moon had a very different kind of composition than the rest of its surface. Spectra is a technique used by astronauts to record the light reflected from various surfaces of the heavenly bodies like the Moon and Mars. Undergoing deep analysis of the spectra from the polar region of the Moon, Li found that unlike the presence of iron-rich rocks on other parts of the Moon, the polar surface had the presence of Hematite. Hematite is nothing but a form of Iron oxide or rust which is formed when the Iron is exposed to oxygen and water.
Mired in disbelief at his finding, Li took the matter up with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL scientists Abigail Fraeman and Vivian Sun in a bid to get his discovery confirmed. Li was quoted by ANI as saying that it was very puzzling to find the presence of Hematite on the polar regions of the Moon as the Earth’s sole natural satellite does not have optimum conditions for the formation of Hematite unlike Earth where huge reserves of Hematite are formed.
Sharing the disbelief of Li at first and refusing to believe the finding, Fraeman and Sun later confirmed the finding. Sun was quoted as saying that the spectra was hematite bearing beyond doubt. Surefooted on the presence of hematite on the Moon, the scientists also offered multiple plausible factors that may have contributed in the formation of rust. The scientists opined that the traces of oxygen from Earth moving towards the Lunar surface could have helped in rust formation since the Moon does not have any atmosphere. Li said that the guess complies with the data recorded by M3 which found larger presence of Hematite on the surface of Moon which is facing the Earth. The scientists also said that since the Moon has been weaning away from the Earth for billions of years, there is a possibility that more oxygen may have transported to the lunar surface when it was closer to the Earth.
The second plausible theory put forward by the Scientists is the benign and mediating effect of the Earth’s magnetotail which blocks the particles of Hydrogen reaching on the surface of the Moon from the solar winds during certain orbital positions of the Moon. The absence of Hydrogen reduces the process of reduction and helps the process of oxidation on the surface of the Moon leading to rust formation. Another theory propounded by the scientists relates to the role played by the fast moving dust particles that could occasionally release the water particles that could lead to the formation of rust.