The Moon’s Mystery Water: No One Has Any Idea Where Lunar Liquid Came From

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There’s something about the moon that’s baffled earthlings for years. And it just got even more mysterious.

You, like everyone else, have probably asked yourself a moon-related question at some point in your life. Did we really land on it? Is there a man there? Is it made of cheese? How much jail time do I face for mooning? Does it have to be a full moon for a werewolf bit to take effect? How does that whole thing with the moon and the tides work again? Why is this child saying goodnight to it?


And the latest conundrum – how did the water get there?

(See TIME’s coverage of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.)

Moon buffs may remember that scientists recently bombed the moon and found sizable amounts of usable water in craters. This is significant because…well, because before people thought there wasn’t water on the moon. But now there is! And researchers are hard at work trying to figure out what this means about the history of Earth and the moon, and whether astronauts could use that water for drinking or rocket fuel. As far as NewsFeed knows, budding entrepreneurs have yet to follow in the moon rock’s success and try to capitalize on selling moon H2O.

As for the origin of the newly discovered agua, scientists assumed it was formed when protons from solar wind snatched oxygen atoms from lunar soil and combined to form H2O. NewsFeed would have been content with that explanation, but some scientists decided to actually test it in a lab at the University of Virginia. They were surprised with their results – not only did they not create any water, the protons dried all traces of water that had existed prior to the experiment.

The outcome put a minor dent in their studies, but researchers aren’t giving up yet. Raúl Baragiola, a member of the University of Virginia moon water team, says they’ll re-test their hypothesis with true lunar soil. The first time around, they used crystals, which could create a different texture and throw off the experiment.

What Baragiola is trying to say is that we may be light-years away from discovering the answer to another moon question. Doesn’t look like R.E.M. is any closer to figuring out about that man up there, either. This might be one for Sinatra (via New Scientist).