January 12, 2014

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Degassing Moon

image by Mohamed Laaifat, Normandy, France

Scientists have found evidence that water existed in the early material that the Moon was made from, and that ice is captured in the forever shadowed polar craters. Mohamed's image shows how the Moon might look like if vast amounts of water were near the surface - for example, an icy crust as for Jovian planet moons. The image gives the impression that the Moon is moving in its curved orbit (the colors above and below it), all the while, giving off gases that spread out around the orbit. And gases seem to shoot out toward the Sun (to the left if the apparent curved orbit were real, but to the right, actually) and away (to the right). It would be an amazing sight if the Moon were actively degassing. With nearly every part of the lunar surface exposed to solar heat for 14 Earth days, and then frigidly cold for 14 more there could be rapid explosions on the surface as cosmic dust that covered the ice was expelled by heated ice that changed from solid to gas.The surface would be in constant turmoil and no features would be permanent. Perhaps near the poles the temperature would be low enough for liquid water to temporally exist, carving channels in the soggy regolith. The side of the Moon facing the Sun would also be degassing, essentially providing a rocket force that would push the Moon away from Earth. The escaping gas would also create a temporary atmosphere - nicely implied in Mohamed's image. If the Moon had a density of 2.0 gm/cc, like many icy Jovian moons, it would be made half of water, and continue to lose mass until it was it was half its current size. This would drastically weaken tides in our seas. Would the reduced mass have other effects?

Chuck Wood

Technical Details
Nikon D60, Sigma 70-300mm; 2 pics in HDR

Related Links
Mohamed's website

Yesterday's LPOD: Little Bumps in the Night

Tomorrow's LPOD: Wrinkles and Flukes


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