Scientists found hematite in the high-latitude regions of the Moon, suspecting that oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere may have caused it.
DW.- The discovery of hematite in high-latitude regions of the Moon has led scientists who study the planets to suspect that oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere may have “oxidized” its satellite, according to an article published this Wednesday the journal Science Advances.
Hematite, also called oligisto or Acarina, is the mineral form of ferric oxide, and its name derives from the Greek term that refers to the red color of its powder, and scientists discovered its presence by analyzing the hyperspectral reflectance data acquired by a NASA instrument on the Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission.
Hematite is very common on Earth, but since the surface and interior of the Moon lack oxygen, pristine metallic iron is present on the satellite and the existence of highly oxidized iron had not been confirmed in samples collected by scientists. astronauts on the Apollo missions.
Furthermore, hydrogen contained in the solar wind bakes the lunar surface in a process that opposes oxidation, so the existence of highly oxidized iron-containing minerals surprised the researchers.
The solar wind pushes oxygen into Earth’s upper atmosphere
“Our hypothesis is that the lunar hematite was formed by the oxidation of iron on the lunar surface by the oxygen present in the Earth’s upper atmosphere continuously pushed to the lunar surface by the solar wind in periods, during several billions of years when the Moon has been in the Earth’s magnetic wake, ”explained Shuai Li, from the Institute of Geophysics and Planetology in Hawaii.
This new research was the result of Li’s 2018 discoveries of water ice in the polar regions of the Moon.
Li’s team determined that the sites where hematite is present are firmly linked to the water content at high latitudes that Li and other researchers had previously located, and that they are more concentrated on the face of the Moon that Earth always faces.