by Peter Dockrill, Science Alert
Seeding the Moon with the ingredients of life
We all know that there’s no air to breathe on the Moon, but new evidence suggests that the lunar surface is continually being showered by oxygen escaping Earth – and may have been for billions of years, since Earth’s atmosphere developed.
Scientists have discovered that oxygen ions from Earth’s atmosphere are transported to the Moon once a month, during a five-day window when the lunar satellite passes through our planet’s protective magnetosphere. In this time, the Moon passes behind Earth, getting a short reprieve from the blast of the Sun’s solar wind – and is sprinkled with a stream of material fleeing Earth instead.
While scientists had already suggested that traces of gases such as nitrogen could have ended up on the lunar surface after escaping our atmosphere, this is the first time researchers have shown that oxygen – one of the most important components of life on Earth – is also shipped direct to the Moon.