Recent data from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has revealed that the Earth’s natural satellite, Moon, might be rusting. The new research suggests that Moon is turning slightly red and indicating the formation of a reddish-black mineral form of iron named hematite on its surface particularly seen at the poles. The formation of rust or iron oxide can be attributed to the presence of two key elements: water and oxygen. The lunar surface is littered with iron-rich rocks that may facilitate this chemical reaction when combined with the other two elements. However, the Moon does not have any rich source of water and is devoid of oxygen in its atmosphere. According to the scientists say that the main reason behind this change could be the Earth’s atmosphere.
The data obtained from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument (M3) revealed that Moon’s pole had a different composition as compared to its surface. The airless Moon may lack the atmosphere to support the formation of oxygen but it hosts the traces of oxygen that travels from Earth to reach the lunar environment. The researchers say the Earth’s magnetotail is an elongated region of the planet’s magnetosphere and it plays a significant role in this change observed over the Moon.
Oxygen from Earth’s upper atmosphere can travel through magnetotail to the Moon from the Earth. Therefore the terrestrial oxygen can reach the near side of the Moon facing the Earth and it means that the oxygen from Earth may be driving the formation of hematite on the lunar surface. As per NASA, the magnetotail blocks about 99% of the solar winds during certain phases of the Moon’s orbit specifically in the Full Moon phase. Data from Chandrayaan 1 again comes into play. The mission is credited with discovering clues of water ice on the poles of the Moon along with mapping out different types of minerals formed on the lunar surface. There could be another factor for rusting which is water even the moon is dry but the poles have long been suspected of hosting water.