The Galileo spacecraft surveyed the moon on Dec. 7, 1992, on its way to explore the Jupiter system in 1995-1997. Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS
Although not life currently exists on the Moon, new research suggests that there is a window of time in which it could have supported life.
A paper written by astrobiologists from Washington State University and the University of London, theorizes that the conditions on the surface of the Moon could have supported “a simple life” right after the Moon was formed 4 billion years ago, and in the volcanic activity that has taken place 3.5 billion years ago.
Both periods was intense quantities of volatile gases, particularly water vapor, coming from the interior — this, the researchers say, could be in favour of life, in the assumption that the vapor is turned to liquid water, that got stuck on the surface of the moon.
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“If liquid water and a substantial atmosphere were present at the beginning of the Moon for a long period of time, we think that the moon’s surface, would at least temporarily habitable,” said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at Washington State University, in a statement to the paper.
The study was published in the journal Astrobiology by Schulze-Makuch and Ian Crawford, a professor of planetary science and astrobiology at the University of London.
The presence of water on the Moon is nothing new. In 2009 and 2010, a team of scientists discovered hundreds of millions of tons of water ice on the Moon.
In February, researchers theorized that water may be more accessible on the Moon than first thought, which could lead to applications such as rocket fuel or possible preservation of life as a lunar outpost.
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Schulze-Makuch and Crawford does not claim that life exists on the Moon, but say it may have started in a similar way as how it happened on Earth.
However, the more likely explanation is that life can be brought by a meteorite, Schulze-Makuch noted.
“We note that the probability of survival of micro-organisms within terrestrial meteorites on the Moon would be increased by the presence of even a tenuous lunar atmosphere, because this would reduce the impact speed,” the study reads.
The earliest known forms of life on Earth are fossilized cyanobacteria, which are about 3.8 billion years old, but according to a 2017 study.
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Since the beginning of the solar system saw a large number of large meteorite impacts, it is likely that a simple organism might have moved from the Earth to the Moon during one of these effects, Schulze-Makuch’s theory.
“There would actually bacteria that thrive in water pools on the Moon until the surface was dry and dead,” he said.
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