‘Magnetic anomalies’ may be protecting the moon’s ice from melting


A map showing the permanently shadowed craters (blue) near the moon’s south pole (Image credit: NASA Goddard)

In 2018, NASA astronomers found the first evidence of water ice on the moon. Lurking in the bottom of pitch-black craters at the moon’s north and south poles, the ice was locked in perpetual shadow and had seemingly survived untouched by the sun’s rays, potentially for millions of years.

The discovery of water ice came with a fresh mystery, however. While these polar craters are protected from direct sunlight, they are not shielded from solar wind, waves of charged particles that gush out of the sun at hundreds of miles a second. This ionized wind is highly erosive and should have destroyed the moon‘s ice long ago, Paul Lucey, a planetary scientist at the University of Hawaii, told Science (opens in new tab). And unlike Earth, the moon no longer has a magnetic shield to protect it from the brunt of these charged particles.



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