According to a new study, the Moon, our planet’s natural satellite, may have once had an atmosphere all of its own. However, this was only a temporary characteristic of this space body, as it is estimated to have only lasted for some 70 million years.
The Moon now lacks an atmosphere, but after finding traces of one, scientists set out to determine what might have caused its appearance.
The Moon Temporarily Having an Atmosphere, Yet Another One of its Mysteries
Lunar and Planetary Institute researchers led by Dr. David A. Kring and Dr. Debra H. Needham are behind this new study. They analyzed the now dead volcanoes of the natural satellite and its dark plains or maria. These are known to consist of hardened lava.
Presently, the Moon has a very thin atmosphere, one called an exosphere.
The research team approximated how much lava might have erupted and then flown over the lunar surface. Then, they estimated how much gasses this would have released. Based on these calculations, the team determined that the gasses accumulated and later formed a transient atmosphere around the Moon.
This is believed to have lasted for some 70 million years. Further research indicated that it might have formed around 3 billion to 4 billion years ago, as the lunar volcanic activity was at its peak. Still, the so created atmosphere eventually dissipated.
“This work dramatically changes our view of the Moon from an airless rocky body to one that used to be surrounded by an atmosphere more prevalent than that surrounding Mars today,” states Dr. Kring.
Researchers explain that this current study may have significant implications for future space missions. They consider that it might be an indicator of hidden ice deposits, ones which would be helpful in prolonged interplanetary travels.
The scientists also point out that humanity still has a lot more to learn about space, especially so as our closest neighbor once again showed us how little we yet know.
Study results are available in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
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