According to the latest study, the moon is rusting and it's likely our planet's fault. Researchers say that the Earth's atmosphere may be causing the moon to rust.
Rust, also known as iron oxide, a reddish compound that forms when the iron is exposed to water and oxygen. Even Mars is nicknamed as the Red Planet after its reddish hue that comes from the rust it acquired long ago when iron on its surface combined with oxygen and water, according to a statement from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. However not all celestial environments are favourable for rusting, especially the dry and the atmosphere-free moon, the scientists said.
Claiming that the situation of moon rusting as puzzling, lead author of the study Shuai Li, an assistant researcher at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa's Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, in a statement said that the Moon is a terrible environment for rust to form. Li was studying data from the 'JPL Moon Mineralogy Mapper', which was on board the Indian Space research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 orbiter while it surveyed the moon in 2008. He learned that the poles of the moon had very different compositions than the rest of it.
The Moon Mineralogy Mapper detected spectra, or wavelengths of light reflected off various surfaces of the moon, to analyze its surface makeup, during the mission. Li focused on the poles and found that the moon's polar surfaces had iron-rich rocks with spectral signatures that matched that of hematite- a type of mineral hematite that is commonly found in Earth's surface. It is a specific type of iron oxide, or rust, with the formula Fe2O3.
In order to turn iron into rust, an 'oxidizer' is needed. An oxidizer is a molecule such as oxygen that removes electrons from a material such as iron. The sun's solar wind, a stream of charged particles that constantly hits the moon with hydrogen, has the opposite effect, the scientists said. However, Hydrogen is a reducer or a molecule that provides electrons to other molecules. Without protection from this solar wind, such as the magnetic field that shields our planet from it, rust should not be able to form on the moon, the scientists explained. However it does, and the key might be the earth said the researchers.
Adding further they said the moon doesn't have an atmosphere of its own to provide sufficient amounts of oxygen, but it has trace amounts provided by Earth's atmosphere, according to the statement. This terrestrial oxygen travels to the moon along with an elongated extension of the planet's magnetic field called a 'magnetotail'.
According to the researchers, Earth's magnetotail can reach all the way to the near side of the moon where more of the hematite was found. Furthermore, the magnetotail blocks 99 percent of solar wind from blasting the moon at every full moon, drawing a temporary curtain over the lunar surface, allowing periods of time for rust to form.
Another ingredient required to form the rust is water and the moon mostly lacks in it. The researchers have proposed that fast-moving dust particles that blast the moon might free water molecules locked into the moon's surface layer, allowing the water to mix with the iron. The researchers said these dust particles might even be carrying water molecules themselves, and their impact might create heat that could increase the oxidation rate.