Astronomers: the ice hit the moon from several sources

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Water craters have long been discovered in the craters of the South Pole of the Moon, but it is not known when and how it formed there. A new study provides an unexpected answer to this question: there were several ice sources, and water from them came to Selena at different times.

Details are set out in a scientific article published in the journal Icarus.

Ice has long been discovered in the craters of the South Pole of the Moon. It lies in areas that always remain in the shade, so that sunlight is not afraid of him. However, experts continue to argue about where it came from.

In a new study, the authors examined 20 large craters near the South Pole of the Moon (latitude from 80°), inside which ice was discovered, and determined their age. Traces of meteorites that fell after the formation of craters helped the dating.

The fact is that over time, a large crater is covered with a whole placer of smaller marks. Knowing the approximate frequency of meteorites falling on Selena, we can calculate when a crater formed.

It turned out that these craters are at least 3.1 billion years old. What does this say about the age of ice at their bottom?

Of course, ice cannot be older than the crater itself. But researchers believe that he cannot be significantly younger.

This is indicated by the extremely heterogeneous distribution of ice along the bottom of the crater: the “glacier” occupies less than 12% of the accessible surface. According to the authors, the fact is that the ice was exposed to micrometeorites for a long time, which partially evaporated it .

This ancient ice itself could be brought to the moon by comets and meteorites rich in water. It is also possible that it hit the surface when water evaporated from liquid magma during volcanic eruptions.

Researchers also examined 100 small craters (less than 15 kilometers in diameter). Their age is difficult to determine accurately, but judging by the ridge that has not yet been destroyed, they are much younger than a billion years.

To the surprise of scientists, ice was also found in 24 of them, although there was much less ice.

“For us it was a surprise – recognized study’s first author Ariel Deutsch Brown University -. [Up to this point] there was no ice observations in relatively young cold traps”.

Let us explain that astronomers refer to points on other celestial bodies as cold traps that are cold enough so that water vapor or other volatile substances condense there.

Meanwhile, volcanism on the moon is believed to have ceased about a billion years ago. In addition, large bodies fall to the surface of the Earth and the Moon not at all as often as they did in the era of the stormy youth of the Solar system. So the ice in young craters is probably different in origin from the ice in the ancients.

Scientists believe that these fresh water supplies could have formed under the influence of the solar wind. Pea-sized meteorites could also have brought them.

Determining the age of lunar “glaciers” is important so that from the pictures of their surface it can be said how much more water is resting in the bowels. And it depends on whether such a field can feed the lunar base.


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