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Moon may have huge reservoirs of water trapped under surface: Scientists

Scientists had assumed for years that the interior of the Moon had been largely depleted of water

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Moon may have huge reservoirs of water trapped under surface: Scientists

The may have huge of trapped under the in the form of 'glass beads', which could be extracted and used by in future lunar colonies, scientists have found.

A new study of satellite data found that numerous deposits distributed across the of the contain unusually high amounts of trapped

The finding of in these ancient deposits, which are believed to consist of glass beads formed by the explosive eruption of magma coming from the deep lunar interior, bolsters the idea that the lunar mantle is surprisingly water-rich.

Scientists had assumed for years that the interior of the had been largely depleted of and other volatile compounds.

In 2008, researchers detected trace amounts of in some of the glass beads brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions to the

In 2011, further study of tiny crystalline formations within those beads revealed that they actually contain similar amounts of as some basalts on Earth, suggesting that the Moon's mantle contains as much as Earth's.

"The key question is whether those Apollo samples represent the bulk conditions of the lunar interior or instead represent unusual or perhaps anomalous water-rich regions within an otherwise 'dry' mantle," said Ralph Milliken, an associate professor at Brown University in the US.

"By looking at the orbital data, we can examine the large pyroclastic deposits on the that were never sampled by the Apollo or Luna missions," said Milliken.

"The fact that nearly all of them exhibit signatures of suggests that the Apollo samples are not anomalous, so it may be that the bulk interior of the is wet," he said.

Scientists used orbital spectrometers to measure the light that bounces off a planetary

By looking at which wavelengths of light are absorbed or reflected by the surface, scientists can get an idea of which minerals and other compounds are present.

Researchers looked at data from the Mineralogy Mapper, an imaging spectrometer that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter.

They found evidence of in nearly all of the large pyroclastic deposits that had been previously mapped across the Moon's surface, including deposits near the Apollo 15 and 17 landing sites where water-bearing glass bead samples were collected.

Water-rich deposits are spread across the lunar surface, which tells us that the found in the Apollo samples is not a one-off, Milliken said.

The idea that the interior of the is water-rich could have implications for future lunar exploration.

The beads do not contain a lot of - about 0.05 per cent by weight - but the deposits are large, and the could potentially be extracted, researchers said.

"Anything that helps save future lunar explorers from having to bring lots of from home is a big step forward, and our results suggest a new alternative," said Shuai Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii in the US.

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