Scientists from the University of London and Washington State University have found evidence that the moon could have once had the conditions needed to support life, a new study published in Astrobiology reports.
Previously, astronomers believed that Earth’s natural satellite never had the volcanoes necessary to create an atmosphere.
However, the recent findings reveal that the lunar surface may have once had the conditions to support simple life forms around roughly 4 billion years ago.
During that time, the moon spewed out superheated gas, including water vapor, from its core. That then created an atmosphere where the escaping steam may have turned into liquid pools on the surface.
If that happened, such areas could have been the perfect place for microorganisms to flourish.
That is significant because if scientists can drill down into the moon and find signs of such life it will give them a glimpse of what used to exist on early Earth.
“It looks very much like the Moon was habitable at this time,” explained lead author Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at Washington State University, according to Telegraph UK. “There could have actually been microbes thriving in water pools on the Moon until the surface became dry and dead. If liquid water and a significant atmosphere were present on the early Moon for long periods of time, we think the lunar surface would have been at least transiently habitable.”
The findings come from combination of recent space mission data and an analysis on lunar soil samples that show the moon is not as dry as previously believed.
In fact, in 2009 and 2010 a team of astronomers discovered that the celestial body holds hundreds of millions of metric tons of water ice. There could be water in the lunar mantle as well.
Such findings support the idea that the rocky satellite once held life. While today’s moon is sterile, four billions of years ago it would have been much more active.
“It seems bizarre to think about, but there may even have been liquid water on the Moon,” added study co-author Ian Crawford, a researcher at the University of London.