|Investigations of the central peaks (where the deepest material these kinds of craters excavate is deposited) of nearside equatorial crater Bullialdus (60.7 km, 20.7°S, 337.8°E) have detected rocks composed of magmatic water of a kind collected by Apollo using the NASA M3 radar instrument aboard the ISRO orbiter Chandrayaan-1. LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) oblique observation M1099038207LR, spacecraft orbit 14313, August 8, 2012; overall resolution 2.4 meters, angle of incidence 48.8° with spacecraft and camera slewed 63.4° west of nadir, 73.65 kilometers over 20.96°S, 331.93°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].|
Using data from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists remotely detected magmatic water, or water that originates from deep within the moon's interior, on the surface of the moon.
The findings, published by letter, August 25, in Nature Geoscience, represent the first detection of this form of water from lunar orbit. Earlier studies had shown the existence of magmatic water in lunar samples returned during the Apollo program.
M3 imaged the lunar impact crater Bullialdus, which lies near the lunar equator. Scientists were interested in studying this area because they could better quantify the amount of water inside the rocks due to the crater's location and the type of rocks it held. The central peak of the crater is made up of a type of rock that forms deep within the lunar crust and mantle when magma is trapped underground.
"This rock, which normally resides deep beneath the surface, was excavated from the lunar depths by the impact that formed Bullialdus crater," said Rachel Klima, a planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.
"Compared to its surroundings, we found that the central portion of this crater contains a significant amount of hydroxyl - a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom -- which is evidence that the rocks in this crater contain water that originated beneath the lunar surface," Klima said.
|LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) 100 meter per pixel mosaic of Bullialdus, an illustration for the post "Bullialdus Central Peak Oblique," January 23, 2013 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].|
"NASA missions like Lunar Prospector and LCROSS (the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) and instruments like M3 have gathered crucial data that fundamentally changed our understanding of whether water exists on the surface of the moon," said S. Pete Worden, center director at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Similarly, we hope that upcoming NASA missions such as the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, will change our understanding of the lunar sky."
|Figure 5 from "One Moon, Many Measurements 3: Spectral reflectance," Science Direct (Icarus, Vol 226, #1, Sept.-Oct. 2013) Combined data for the Bullialdus area. (a) Location of available datasets of the Bullialdus region: gray scale base map, MI; red dots, SP traverses; blue shading, M3 scene width; light-blue dots, SIR-2 traverses. SP/M3/SIR-2 datasets within the white box are presented in this figure. The white box corresponds to the area shown in (b) and (c). TC data cover the entire area. Data included in Table 2 for SP are indicated in yellow, and those for SIR-2 are solid light blue. (b) M3 color-composite image. Band assignments are integrated band depth at 1 μm (red), integrated band depth at 2 μm (green), and 1.5 μm albedo (blue). A manual shadow mask has been applied, primarily on the west (left) crater wall. (c) MI color-composite image. Red denotes the continuum-removed absorption depth of 0.95 μm, green denotes that of 1.05 μm, and blue denotes that of 1.25 μm. (d) TC image of the central part of the Bullialdus central peak. (e) MI 750 nm-band image after photometric correction using local topographic information. (f) MI color-composite image of the center of the Bullialdus central peak. (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)|
The detection of internal water from orbit means scientists can begin to test some of the findings from sample studies in a broader context, including in regions that are far from where the Apollo sites are clustered on the near side of the moon. For many years, researchers believed that the rocks from the moon were bone-dry and any water detected in the Apollo samples had to be contamination from Earth.
"Now that we have detected water that is likely from the interior of the moon, we can start to compare this water with other characteristics of the lunar surface," said Klima. "This internal magmatic water also provides clues about the moon's volcanic processes and internal composition, which helps us address questions about how the moon formed, and how magmatic processes changed as it cooled."
APL is a not-for-profit division of Johns Hopkins University. Joshua Cahill and David Lawrence of APL and Justin Hagerty of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona co-authored the paper.
NASA's Lunar Advanced Science and Engineering Program, the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) at Ames and the NASA Planetary Mission Data Analysis Program supported the research. NLSI is a virtual organization jointly funded by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington, to enable collaborative, interdisciplinary research in support of NASA lunar science programs.