A recent study suggests that electron waves emanating from the Earth and the Sun may play a role in ice formation on the lunar surface. These electrons reach the moon as it passes through Earth’s magnetic tail, a region of highly charged particles left behind as our planet moves through space.
The magnetic tail contains a plasma layer made up of electrons and ions extracted from Earth’s atmosphere and radiation from the Sun’s solar wind. Scientists have long been interested in understanding the formation of frozen water on the Moon, and research to date has focused on the magnetosphere and magnetotail as possible contributors.
When the moon is outside the magnetic tail, the solar wind bombards it with protons, which are thought to be responsible for the formation of water. However, remote analysis has shown that water continues to form on the lunar surface even within the protected environment of the magnetotail.
Now researchers believe that electrons could drive this process. The high-energy electrons could react with the lunar soil, releasing trapped hydrogen, which can later combine to form water. The effects of high-energy electrons and protons from the solar wind are being investigated as possible sources of lunar water.
To confirm these findings, further research and experiments on the lunar surface are required. Understanding the origin of water on the Moon is of great interest to scientists because it provides information about its history and is critical to determining the viability of long-term human habitation of the lunar surface.
“This find, along with my previous findings of rusty lunar poles, suggests a strong connection between Earth and its moon that is in many ways unrecognized,” says planetary scientist Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.