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Brown researchers say evidence found of water in moon

In this  image of the moon, colored areas indicate elevated water content compared with surrounding terrains. Yellows and reds indicate the richest water content, researchers say.
Milliken Lab/Brown University
In this image of the moon, colored areas indicate elevated water content compared with surrounding terrains. Yellows and reds indicate the richest water content, researchers say.

Researchers at Brown University say that they’ve found evidence of water trapped inside the moon. But don’t expect any underground rivers or lakes.

The researchers say that by using data collected by a lunar probe, they’ve studied pyroclastic deposits, the rocks ejected by ancient volcanos, across the moon, and found glass beads with water trapped inside.

That suggests that the moon’s mantle, the layer of the moon between the core and the crust, contains water.

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There wouldn’t be pockets of liquid water, though. The water would be dispersed and bound within the rocks and minerals of the mantle, as it is within the Earth’s, said Ralph Milliken, lead author of the new research and an associate professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences.

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Milliken co-wrote the paper in Nature Geoscience with Shuai Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii.

The researchers undertook their study of the moon after a fellow researcher at Brown University in 2008 found trace amounts of water in glass beads brought back from the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 missions.

The latest discovery has a number of implications. One of the most intriguing is that the deposits could provide a source of water for future moon settlements.

“In theory, that water could be extracted,” Milliken said.

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While individual beads don’t have much water in them, the “size of the deposits are huge,” he said. And that could solve a big headache for astronauts.

“Other studies have suggested the presence of water ice in shadowed regions at the lunar poles, but the pyroclastic deposits are at locations that may be easier to access,” Li said in a statement. “Anything that helps save future lunar explorers from having to bring lots of water from home is a big step forward, and our results suggest a new alternative.”