The Earth Sends Oxygen to the Moon

The Earth Sends Oxygen to the Moon

The moon and the Earth have always been portrayed romantically by most, due to their mutual attractions toward each other by the force of gravity. Preserved on the moon's surface, these particles may constitute a unique record of life on Earth. Although the possibility of the presence of terrestrial nitrogen and noble gasses in lunar soil has been discussed based on their isotopic composition, complicated oxygen isotope fractionation in lunar metal 2,3 (particularly the provenance of a 16O-poor component) remains an enigma.

This process occurs only in 5 days of moon's 27-day orbit around the Earth.

Since the Moon doesn't have a protective magnetic field like Earth, it gets near-constantly buffeted by the solar wind - a stream of highly charged particles emanating from the Sun. One side of that magnetosphere stretches away from the sun like a flag in the wind. The Osaka University team estimates that every square centimeter of the moon's exposed surface is struck by approximately 26,000 oxygen ions every second over the five-day period.

The process has been suspected by scientists for quite some time, but the evidence popped up very recently.

"Chances can not be ruled out that such gasses have been kept intact on the moon", he said. "Such biogenic oxygens have. contaminated the lunar surface", Kentaro Terada, an astrophysicist at Osaka University, tells The Verge.

During the orbit, the researchers had noticed something interesting. It was then concluded by Terada and his team that the ions were coming from the Earth, and not the solar winds.

For instance, Escoubet suggests, he and his team can look at data from their Earth-orbiting satellites gathered at the same time as the Kaguya data to see if they too show similar increases in singly-charged oxygen ions streaming from Earth.

The Moon's surface is continually bombarded and altered by meteorites, which could have displaced the oxygen ions, or buried them deep under the lunar surface. The oxygen has been lodging over 2.4 billion years, which means scientists may be able to find traces of the Earth's ancient atmosphere in there. Also, they note, prior research has found lunar soil samples containing some degree of oxygen-17 and oxygen-18 isotopes, which are not typically found in space but are found in the ozone layer covering Earth. And since its formation, the Moon has held physical influence over the Earth, by affecting the ebb and flow of the Earth's tides and by stabilizing our planet's rotational axis. They are also chemically connected now that oxygen from Earth makes itself home on the lunar surface despite the distance.