Water Released from Moon During Meteor Showers
From late 2013 to early 2014, a NASA mission called LADEE explored the moon’s tenuous atmosphere and its dust environment.
Now, LADEE’s observations have led to a new discovery: the lunar surface is periodically releasing water.
What we discovered is that the surface releases its water when the moon is bombarded by micrometeoroids.
This is especially noticeable during meteor showers.
What we also found is that the surface that’s releasing the water is being protected by a layer, a few centimeters of dry soil that can only be breached by large micrometeoroids.
When micrometeoroids impact the surface of the moon, most of the material in the crater is vaporized.
There is also a shock wave that propagates outward.
That shock wave carries enough energy to release the water that’s coating the grains of the soil.
Most of that water will get released into space, and that’s the signature that LADEE detects with its instrument from its orbit.
By analyzing the data returned by the neutral mass spectrometer, we found that the intensity and the frequencies of the fluctuations of signals from the water to be perfectly correlated with known meteor streams.
For example, we were able to detect a big spike of water during the Geminid meteor shower that occurred in December of 2013.
Thanks to LADEE, we now know that trace amounts of water are widely distributed across the lunar surface.
This discovery provides a potential resource for future exploration, and it improves our understanding the moon’s geologic past and its continued evolution.