A new research suggests that our planet and its satellite may have more in common than believed as Earth oxygen has been detected in lunar rocks.
Everyone knows that the Moon has a close influence on our planet. But a new study seems to indicate that the contrary is also true. The Earth may be having a closer influence than believed on its satellite.
Japanese researchers made a surprising find. Their new theory is based on data gathered by SELENE. Also known as Kaguya, this a Japanese lunar orbiter. Whilst analyzing the information, the scientists noted an unusual element. Traces of Earth oxygen were spotted on the orbiting space body.
Research results on the matter were released earlier this week. They were published Monday in the Nature Astronomy journal. Available online since January 30, the study is titled as follows. “Biogenic oxygen from Earth transported to the Moon by a wind of magnetospheric ions”.
According to the research, the Moon’s Earth oxygen reserves can be explained as follows. Our planet could be losing a bit of oxygen. As it escapes Earth, the oxygen is transported by space winds. The Moon could be their final destination. The process could be billions of years old.
Reports state that the phenomenon was first noted in 2008. Kaguya’s onboard sensors detected oxygen ion changes. Each month, the spacecraft would get bombarded by them.
Usually, solar winds carry a fast-moving type of oxygen ions. These were seen to be slower. Therefore, they also had just one positive charge. Taken together, this fact indicated that this was Earth oxygen.
Kathleen Mandt states as follows. “One of the things that appears to have been a mystery is the oxygen isotope composition for the lunar soil”. Mandt was not involved in the current research. She is a Southwest Research Institute senior research scientist. And according to her “They (the study) are providing a potential explanation for it”.
The Earth-Moon system is bombarded by solar winds. These carry highly charged material. Originally from the Sun, they are high-energy ions. The magnetosphere helps protect the Earth from such attacks.
But the Moon lacks this defense system. So science assumed that most high-energy ions end up on the satellite. Consequently, the space body should also have a similar isotopic signature to the solar winds bombarding it.
Solar winds samples revealed that they are rich in oxygen-16. Yet, the moon rock samples were poor in oxygen-16. Now, the Japanese study may offer an explanation as to these differences.
“Our new findings suggest that the Earth-Moon system coevolves not only physically but also chemically. This is according to Kentaro Terada. He is an Osaka University in Japan astrophysicist, part of the study.
The explained their findings as follows. During each 27-day orbit period, the Moon passes through our magnetosphere. As it does so, it is exposed to high-energy oxygen ions. The magnetosphere contains relatively high values of Earth oxygen.
Some of the oxygen leaks out of the atmosphere. And some atoms may be strong enough to resist the Earth’s gravitational pull. During its 5 day pass, the Moon could collect some of these particles.
Hence, the Earth oxygen gets deposited in the Moon’s soil. This would explain its low oxygen-16 rock composition.
This would also mean that the Earth and its satellite have an even closer bond. It may suggest that moon rocks may be more tied up with our planet. As some researchers approve the theory, others do point out some facts.
According to the aforementioned Mandt, the situation is still quite complicated. “I’m not saying its impossible. It’s just a big, complicated project.”
“I think it would require a lot of work to really untangle that”. As stated by most researchers, more studies would have to be carried out.
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