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The Earth’s atmosphere is causing the Moon to rust, according to new research.
Scientists have been left baffled after noticing that the surface of the atmosphere-free moon began showing signs of rusting.
The polar surfaces of the Moon are said to have iron-rich rocks – but scientists have been confused after minerals native to Earth appeared to be found on the Moon.
Questions have been raised after studies showed hematite – which is a specific type of iron oxide that is found in rust – with the formula F2203 were discovered by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper.
Shuai Li, an assistant researcher at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa's Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, said in a statement: "It's very puzzling. The Moon is a terrible environment for [rust] to form in."
Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geoscientist at JPL, concurred saying: "At first, I totally didn't believe it. It shouldn't exist based on the conditions present on the Moon.
“But since we discovered water on the Moon, people have been speculating that there could be a greater variety of minerals than we realize if that water had reacted with rocks."
The scientists reached their conclusions after studying information obtained from JPL Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which was onboard the Indian Space research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 orbiter which surveyed the moon in 2008.
For Iron to start rusting, it needs to be oxidised by oxygen.
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With the Moon having no atmosphere, and with solar winds more likely to blast the moon surface with hydrogen – which would preserve iron, rather than make it rust – scientists suspect the Earth could be to blame for the sudden rusting of the surface.
Trace elements of oxygen could carry over from the Earth’s atmosphere, the Institute of Geophysics and Planetology scientists suggest.
The element would be carried to the surface via the magnetotail created by the Earth’s magnetic field.
And it is believed the magnetic field of the the Earth would grow to encompass the entire surface of a full Moon, blocking the solar winds that usually supply hydrogen and allowing time for the iron rocks to be oxidised.
Live Science also explain how water – which is also required to make Iron rust – would be released on the moon from the frozen water that already exists on the surface.
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They suggest: “the researchers propose that fast-moving dust particles that bombard the moon might free water molecules locked into the moon's surface layer, allowing the water to mix with the iron.
“These dust particles might even be carrying water molecules themselves, and their impact might create heat that could increase the oxidation rate.”
Mr Li went on to state: “This discovery will reshape our knowledge about the Moon's polar regions. Earth may have played an important role on the evolution of the Moon's surface.”
- Full Moon
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