Three years ago UT researchers helped to discover water on the surface of the moon. Now, they are piecing together the origin of that water: solar wind. A new study published in this month’s “Nature Geoscience” confirms solar wind as a source for water embedded in the lunar surface.
Larry Taylor, who once held the strong belief that water does not exist on the moon, now says that water on the moon may have originated from comets smashing into it soon after formation. Taylor, a distinguished professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, will speak at the UT Science Forum on “The Discovery of Water on the Moon and Its Significance for Mankind” on Jan. 28 at noon in Thompson-Boling Arena Dining Room C-D.
Researchers at UT Knoxville are once again turning what scientists thought they knew about the moon on its head. Last fall, researchers discovered “lunar dew” on the moon’s surface — absorbed “water” in the uppermost layers of lunar soil. Now, scientists have discovered that water on the moon is more widespread — on the outside and inside of the moon — with some similarities to water in volcanic systems on Earth.
The discovery of water on the moon by a team of researchers including UT Knoxville’s Larry Taylor has had global impact. Almost 1,000 news outlets around the world have reported on the discovery of water in the lunar soil, distributed across much of the surface of the moon.
When Apollo astronauts returned from the moon 40 years ago, they brought back souvenirs in the form of moon rocks to be used for scientific analysis, and one of the chief questions was whether there was water to be found in the lunar rocks and soils. The problem they faced was complicated by the fact that most of the rock boxes containing the lunar samples had leaked. This led the scientists to assume that the trace amounts of water they found came from Earth air that had entered the containers. Forty years later, a team of scientists including UT Knoxville’s Larry Taylor has found evidence that the old assumption may be wrong.