The scientists from China's Chang'E-5 lunar lander found evidence of water in the form of hydroxyl when they were on the moon. The amount of water detected ranged from zero to 180 parts per million.

For the first time in the world, the results of laboratory analysis of lunar return samples and the results of in-situ lunar surface surveys were combined to examine the presence, form and amount of water in lunar samples. The results answer the question of the distribution characteristics and source of water in the Chang'E-5 landing zone and provide a ground truth for the interpretation and estimation of water signals.

Critical clues to the possible sources of these hydroxyl can be found in the laboratory analysis. H2O is a chemical cousin of Hydroxyl.

Illustration: Chang'e-5 probe
An artist’s concept shows the Chang’e-5 lander and ascent vehicle on the Moon. (CNSA / CLEP via NASA)

The Ocean of Storms is located on the western side of the Moon and is visible from Earth. The area was not visited by the NASA Apollo or the Soviet Luna missions. The area has an age of about 2 billion years old and is one of the youngest lunar surfaces.

Data from a panoramic camera, lunar mineralogical spectrometer, and lunar penetrating radar were used to look for evidence of water. One rock near the landing site registered the most hydroxyl, about 180 parts per million.

During the hottest part of the day on the Moon, the lunar return samples were collected and the surface would be very dry.

Water can be brought to the lunar surface through a process called solar wind implant. The hydrogen atoms on the lunar surface are formed by charged particles from the Sun. There are water molecule that exist in low concentrations across the moon.

The image at the left show the scoop sampling points. At left is the spectra of the samples, The gray dashed line shows the absorption positions near 2.85 ppm. Credit: Li et al.

Low solar winds coincide with the time when Chang'E-5's samples were collected. The samples contain clumps of lunar glass, which is created by solar winds interacting with the lunar surface.

The Chang'E-5 sample shows that the signal of hydroxyl is present in the rocks and regolith. Apatite is a mineral found on the Moon and also on Earth. The researchers found compelling evidence that the hydroxyl is embedded in the rocks.

According to a press release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the excess hydroxyl is indigenous and shows the presence of internal water in the Chang'E-5 lunar samples. We are learning more about the formation and evolution of the solar system when we investigate lunar water and its source. Future human lunar resources are expected to be supported by lunar water.

The successors to Chang'E-5 are Chang'E6 and Chang'E-7. To better understand the source, distribution and temporal variation of lunar water, including polar ice, they want to continue their research.

There are sources.

The nature communications.

There is a website called Phys.Org.