Moon Losing Its Water
The moon loses more water than it receives from the solar wind or meteorites. How long has that been going on?
Data analyzed from the LADEE mission, which orbited the moon 2013-2014 measuring the thin lunar atmosphere, has revealed something interesting: meteor impacts blast water out of the deep soil, where most of it is lost to space, never to return. Water? Yes; the moon has some. Lunar soil is drier than any soil on Earth, but it does retain some H2O and OH– (hydroxyl) ions, which chemists designate as water. Some water molecules can form from reactions with the solar wind.
A video clip at the NASA Goddard website illustrates how LADEE connected meteor impacts to escaping water in “meteoroid streams” in the atmosphere:
There’s evidence that the Moon has water (H2O) and hydroxyl (OH), a more reactive relative of H2O. But debates continue about the origins of the water, whether it is widely distributed and how much might be present.
“The Moon doesn’t have significant amounts of H2O or OH in its atmosphere most of the time,” said Richard Elphic, the LADEE project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “But when the Moon passed through one of these meteoroid streams, enough vapor was ejected for us to detect it. And then, when the event was over, the H2O or OH went away.”
There’s more water three inches down (the “hydrated layer”) than in the top portion (“dessicated layer”) of regolith (lunar soil that has been “gardened” by small meteorites), so only larger meteors penetrate where the water is. Nevertheless, water escape is a continuous process:
Because the material on the lunar surface is fluffy, even a meteoroid that’s a fraction of an inch (5 millimeters) across can penetrate far enough to release a puff of vapor. With each impact, a small shock wave fans out and ejects water from the surrounding area.
When a stream of meteoroids rains down on the lunar surface, the liberated water will enter the exosphere and spread through it. About two-thirds of that vapor escapes into space, but about one-third lands back on the surface of the Moon.
The liberated vapor that remains may find its way into “cold traps” near the poles, where craters remain in permanent shadow. Not enough water can be made by the solar wind, the researchers state, meaning that most of it must have already been there since the moon’s formation, or was delivered by impactors:
“We know that some of the water must be coming from the Moon, because the mass of water being released is greater than the water mass within the meteoroids coming in,” said the second author of the paper, Dana Hurley of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
The analysis indicates that meteoroid impacts release water faster than it can be produced from reactions that occur when the solar wind hits the lunar surface.
“The water being lost is likely ancient, either dating back to the formation of the Moon or deposited early in its history,” said Benna.
The figure caption says, “in order to sustain the water loss from meteoroid impacts, the hydrated layer requires replenishment from a deeper ancient water reservoir.”
In short, the moon is losing its tenuous water faster than it is receiving it or making it. Has this been the case for the moon’s history? Scientists can’t say: “debates continue about the origins of the water, whether it is widely distributed and how much might be present,” the press release said. The infographic caption shows “ancient H2O at depth” percolating upward as a “hypothetical” process, but the only water with empirical support comes from the “hydrated layer” more than 3 inches below the surface. So, “in order to sustain the water loss from meteoroid impacts, the hydrated layer requires replenishment from a deeper ancient water reservoir” that is only theoretical.
This situation is analogous to Titan’s methane loss. Determined to keep Titan billions of years old, planetary scientists have had to imagine an unobservable methane reservoir locked up below the surface that burps out into the atmosphere from time to time. Scientists should clearly state their assumptions as assumptions, not as the only reasonable options. If the moon only has a shallow hydrated layer, the moyboys are in big trouble.
The Flood model by Walt Brown (the Hydroplate Theory) postulates that supercritical water shot out from the fountains of the great deep (Genesis 7:11) and showered the moon with water molecules. Other escaping water became comets and asteroids. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, only a small fraction of the escaping water from the subterranean chambers that form the basis of his theory would have been needed to supply these water sources in space. If interested, you can read his supporting arguments for these processes at his CreationScience.com website.
Whatever one’s beliefs, a plausible theory is required to explain the origin of the moon’s water. Secular materialists imagine a wet asteroid coming in and striking the Earth, creating a debris disk that formed the moon. That theory has numerous problems, from the improbability of a source impactor, the improbability of a Goldilocks strike, the improbability of any volatiles remaining behind, and a means to get the water to the surface. Brown’s model provides a rigorous attempt to explain all the observations. Let other models match that level of detail. In any event, the case of the moon’s water loss over time calls into question the billions-of-years story for the moon. Here’s an opportunity for non-moyboys to contribute to the debate.