BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — A new study from the University of Colorado Boulder shows volcanoes from thousands of years ago may have led to massive ice sheets near the moon’s poles that could be hundreds of feet thick.
The study was recently published in The Planetary Science Journal, and showed that volcanic eruptions two to four billion years ago spewed water vapor into the moon’s atmosphere.
“We envision it as a frost on the moon that built up over time,” said Andrew Wilcoski, lead author of the new study and a graduate student in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU Boulder.
The study showed that around 18 quadrillion (yes, you read that right) pounds of volcanic water may have condensed on the moon as giant ice sheets that could now be buried under feet of lunar dust.
Researchers said that the sheets of ice could provide water for future moon explorers to consume, as well as being used to process into rocket fuel.
According to the study, it is estimated that the moon experienced one volcanic eruption every 22,000 years. While the research team worked to complete the study, they tracked how volcanic gases swirled around the moon, and then escaped into space over time. That’s when they discovered that conditions may have turned icy.
The research team estimated that around 41% of the water from volcanoes may have condensed onto the moon as ice.