It is indeed bizarre to say the moon is rusting because of the earth’s atmosphere.
But wait, there’s no oxygen on the moon and neither water, two of the most elements that cause rust.
However, scientists found evidence. It was right there.
In one of India’s lunar probe in 2008, Chandrayaan-1 was said to orbit the moon. As a result, multiple discoveries were made including the presence of water molecules on the moon’s surface. The probe also carried an instrument built by NASA to analyze other mineral components present on the moon.
The Unsolved Quest:
Researchers at the Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology and NASA were shocked after analyzing the data gathered from the moon.
The moon was found to contain hematite, a form of iron oxide i.e. rust. The moon consists of plenty iron-of rich rocks, but rust is formed only when exposed to water or oxygen.
Abigail Fraeman, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a press release said, “At first, I totally didn’t believe it. It shouldn’t exist based on the conditions present on the Moon.”
Not only does the moon have no air but is flooded with hydrogen that only comes through the sun. Rust ideally forms when oxygen removes electrons form iron, and hydrogen functions just the opposite – it adds electrons. Simply said, rust can’t form on a hydrogen-rich environment i.e. the moon.
Shuai Li from the University of Hawaii and the lead to the study of hematite says, “It’s very puzzling. The Moon is a terrible environment for hematite to form in.”
Li finally cracked it.
The answer lies within our planet itself.
Here’s the theory:
The rust was more focused on the side of the moon that faces the earth’s surface. Since the earth has been a benefactor of the magnetic field, it is said that the solar wind helps in stretching the bubble further creating a long magnetic tail.
To be precise, the moon then enters this tail within three days, right before the time when the moon comes in its fullest form. The process takes about six days, from the time it enters and exits the tail.
Within these six days, the earth’s magnetic tail then covers the surface of the moon with electrons. It is likely to say strange things can take place during this phase. The probability is, you might find moon dust flying into a dust storm or dust particles from the moon’s surface may float off from the ground, predicts NASA.
According to the hypothesis, it is also possible that the lunar hematite might have been formed via the oxidation of the lunar surface iron from then earth’s topmost atmosphere. This might have been continuously blown toward the lunar surface through the solar wind. This may have happened when the moon was in the earth’s magnetotail a billion years ago, says Li.
It is quite possible that earth had a crucial role to play in the evolution of the moon’s surface. This theory might also explain how rust was found in airless bodies such as the asteroids.