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Scientists May Be Wrong About The Amount of Water In The Moon

Update Date: Apr 02, 2014 09:08 AM EDT

Scientists may have overestimated the amount of water in the moon, according to a new released form UCLA. The error occurred from scientists examining the mineral apatite. 

With the help of a self-developed computer model, a team of researchers forecasted how apatite would have crystalized from cooling bodies of lunar magma early in the Moon's history. The model proved that the abnormally hydrogen-rich apatite crystals seen in many Moon rock samples may not have developed within a water-rich environment as previously though. 

"The mineral apatite is the most widely used method for estimating the amount of water in lunar rocks, but it cannot be trusted," said Jeremy Boyce of the UCLA Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences in a statement. "Our new results show that there is not as much water in lunar magma as apatite would have us believe."

Four years ago, the finding of hydrogen-rich apatite within Moon rocks hinted of a more watery past. Initially, scientists thought that data retrieved from a tiny sample of apatite might be able to predict the original water content of the entire Moon but has turned otherwise. 

"Early forming apatite is so fluorine-rich that it vacuums all the fluorine out of the magma, followed by chlorine," Boyce explained. "Apatite that forms later doesn't see any fluorine or chlorine and becomes hydrogen-rich because it has no choice."

"We had 40 years of believing in a dry moon, and now we have some evidence that the old dry model of the moon wasn't perfect. However, we need to be cautious and look carefully at each piece of evidence before we decide that rocks on the moon are as wet as those on Earth."

The findings are also described in the journal Science

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