The Moon, our nearest neighbor and the only body from outer space humans set foot on, is relatively known to Earth’s scientists. It is known that there’s no air, and there are a few tiny ice pockets, but there’s no liquid water.
Therefore, you might see why the discovery of haematite on the Moon alerted scientists since haematite is an oxidized version of iron that forms on Earth in the presence of air and water.
The Moon is often bombarded with an incoming stream of hydrogen from solar winds, a reducing agent that gives away electrons to the materials it encounters.
The oxidization process happens because of the loss of electrons.
Therefore, if all of the right elements were present for oxidization to happen, the solar wind should have stopped it.
Planetary Scientist Shuai Li from the University of Hawaii at Manoa said that the phenomenon is puzzling.
“The Moon is a terrible environment for haematite to form in,” Li added.
The haematite was discovered from data gathered by the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), designed by NASA’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), uses a technique called hyperspectral imaging to realize a granular spectroscopic analysis, revealing a detailed breakdown of the Moon’s surface mineral composition.
That method helped Li and his colleagues identify ice pockets at high latitudes around the Moon’s poles two years ago.
However, a closer analysis of the data showed a peculiar detail:
“When I examined the M3 data at the polar regions, I found some spectral features and patterns are different from those we see at the lower latitudes or the Apollo samples,” stated Li.
“More hematite on the lunar nearside suggested that it may be related to Earth,” he added.
Stay tuned to learn more about the rusting Moon after scientists dig deeper into the mystery!