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Photo: NASA/JPL/Northwestern University

Researchers have found rust on the Moon, complicating our picture of how Earth's natural satellite has evolved over the course of billions of years.

Why it matters: Understanding the Moon and its composition is key not just for scientists working to learn more about how planetary systems form and change over time but for future explorers who hope to make use of lunar resources.

What's happening: A new study in the journal Science Advances details findings from India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter that shows hematite — a type of rust — has formed on the Moon.

  • Scientists were surprised by the findings because rust requires oxygen and water to form on Earth. Researchers have known for years that the Moon does have water, but oxygen is in pretty short supply on the airless body.
  • The study suggests the oxygen needed for the chemical reaction to create rust is actually spilling over from Earth's atmosphere driven by the planet's magnetic field to the surface of the Moon.
  • From there, fast-moving dust slamming into the Moon might stir up small amounts of water that interact with oxygen and iron, producing the hematite found by the orbiter.

The big picture: It's possible these kinds of chemical interactions could be at play on other bodies like asteroids as well.

  • "It could be that little bits of water and the impact of dust particles are allowing iron in these bodies to rust," Abigail Fraeman, a Jet Propulsion Lab scientist and one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 17, 2020 - Science

Where Europa's water lives

Europa. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

The plumes seen erupting from Jupiter's moon Europa might be fed by water trapped in the world's crust, according to a new study.

Why it matters: Europa is thought to be one of the best places to hunt for life in the solar system, in part because of the subsurface ocean scientists expect exists beneath its icy crust.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
41 mins ago - Science

Biden's military space future

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden should anticipate major and minor conflicts in space from even the earliest days of his presidency.

The big picture: President Donald Trump's military and civil space policies are well-documented, but Biden's record and views on space are less clear.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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