Scientists had the same reaction as you did when you came to this conclusion. That should not be the case – after all, the moon has no oxygen, and water is one of the two elements needed to create rust.
But the evidence was there.
India’s lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, orbited the Moon in 2008, gathering information that has led to numerous discoveries over the years – including the discovery of water molecules on its surface. The probe also included a device developed by NASA that can analyze the mineral composition of the moon.
Researchers at NASA and the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology recently analyzed the data and were surprised to find traces of hematite, a form of iron oxide known as rust. Iron-rich rocks are abundant on the Moon – but iron only produces rust when exposed to oxygen and water.
Not only is there no air on the moon, but the hydrogen flowing from the sun carries the solar wind. Rust is produced when oxygen removes electrons from iron; Hydrogen reacts with electrons, which means that it is difficult for rust to form on the hydrogen – rich moon.
After months of research, Li and NASA scientists think they’re smashed it – and the answer to the mystery lies on our own planet.
Here is their theory
An important indication is that the rust was more concentrated on the side of the Moon facing the Earth – indicating that it is somehow connected to our planet.
The Earth is contained in a magnetic field, and the solar wind stretches this bubble, creating a long magnetic tail in a downward direction. The moon enters this tail three days before filling, and it takes six days to cross the tail and exit on the other side.
Oxygen from Earth lands on the Moon in this magnetic tail, where it interacts with lunar water molecules to form rust.
The magnetic tail blocks almost all solar winds on the full moon – meaning it temporarily protects the moon from hydrogen explosion and opens a window for the formation of rust.
“This discovery will reconstruct our knowledge of the Moon’s polar regions,” he added. “Earth may have played an important role in the evolution of the lunar surface.”
This theory may also explain why rust was found on anaerobic objects, such as asteroids. “Small amounts of water and the impact of dust particles allow the iron in this body to corrode,” Freeman said.
But some questions remain unanswered – for example, although most of the rust has been found near the Moon, small parts of the Earth have been found on its far side that are inaccessible to oxygen. It is still unclear how the water on the moon interacts with the rock.
To gather more information for these unsolved mysteries, NASA is developing a new version of the device that collects all existing data about the lunar mineral structure. One of these features is the ability to map water ice to lunar craters – and “may reveal new details about hematite,” the NASA release said.