New NASA research has revealed the presence of a rare type of rust called hematite on the Moon, to the bewilderment of space scientists. Earth’s nearest neighbour Mars has long been known for rust to exist on its desolate red surface.
The existence of iron, combined with water and oxygen from the red planet’s ancient past, is responsible for the famed Martian hue.
It’s very puzzling
Professor Shuai Li
However scientists have yet to understand how this can happen on Earth’s airless Moon.
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter made the shock discovery.
The unmanned probe found both water ice and numerous of minerals during its 2008 survey.
Lead author Professor Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii studied that water extensively in data from Chandrayaan-1’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument (M3), designed by NASA.
The US-based space agency said in a statement: “Water interacts with rock to produce a diversity of minerals, and M3 detected spectra – or light reflected off surfaces – that revealed the Moon’s poles had a very different composition than the rest of it.;
Professor Li became particularly interested in these polar ranges.
Although the lunar surface is littered with iron-rich rocks, he was still surprised to spot the spectral signature of hematite.
Hematite is a form of iron oxide created when iron, oxygen and water mix. But the
The stream of charged particles flowing from the Sun called the solar wind, constantly bombards the planet and the Moon with hydrogen.
This element makes it, in theory, far more difficult for hematite to form.
Hydrogen is known as a reducer, where the element adds electrons to the materials it interacts with.
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But this the opposite of what is required to make hematite.
For iron to rust, it requires an oxidiser, removing electrons.
And although the Earth has a magnetic field shielding it from this hydrogen, the Moon does not.
Professor Li said in a statement: ”It’s very puzzling.
“The Moon is a terrible environment for hematite to form in.”
As a result, he used M3’s data to confirm the discovery of hematite.
He added: ”At first, I totally didn’t believe it.”
Dr Abigail Fraeman, a NASA scientist, said: “It shouldn’t exist based on the conditions present on the Moon.
“But since we discovered water on the Moon, people have been speculating that there could be a greater variety of minerals than we realise if that water had reacted with rocks.”
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