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Moon May Have Harboured Life 4 Billion Years Ago, Research Suggests

Life on the Moon could have originated much as it did on Earth but the more likely scenario is that it would have been brought in by a meteorite, according to Schulze-Makuch

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The researcher's work draws on results from recent space missions and sensitive analyses of lunar rock and soil samples that show the Moon is not as dry as previously thought. Pixabay
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While the Moon is presently unsuitable for habitation, there could have been life on its surface about four billion years ago, researchers have suggested.

There may have been actually two early windows of habitability for Earth’s Moon, according to the study published in the journal Astrobiology.

According to the researchers, conditions on the lunar surface were sufficient to support simple lifeforms shortly after the Moon formed from a debris disk four billion years ago and again during a peak in lunar volcanic activity around 3.5 billion years ago.

During both periods, the Moon was spewing out large quantities of superheated volatile gases, including water vapour, from its interior, according to the researchers.

The researchers said that this outgassing could have formed pools of liquid water on the lunar surface and an atmosphere dense enough to keep it there for millions of years.

“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,” said study co-author Dirk Schulze-Makuch from the Washington State University in the US.

Moon
While the Moon is presently unsuitable for habitation, there could have been life on its surface about four billion years ago, researchers have suggested. Pixabay

The researcher’s work draws on results from recent space missions and sensitive analyses of lunar rock and soil samples that show the Moon is not as dry as previously thought.

Life on the Moon could have originated much as it did on Earth but the more likely scenario is that it would have been brought in by a meteorite, according to Schulze-Makuch.

The earliest evidence for life on Earth comes from fossilised cyanobacteria that are between 3.5 and 3.8 billion years old.

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During this time, the solar system was dominated by frequent and giant meteorite impacts. It is possible that meteorites containing simple organisms like cyanobacteria could have been blasted off the surface of the Earth and landed on the Moon.

“It looks very much like the Moon was habitable at this time,” Schulze-Makuch said.

“There could have actually been microbes thriving in water pools on the Moon until the surface became dry and dead,” Schulze-Makuch added. (IANS)

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IAU Names Two Lunar Craters to Honour NASA’s Apollo 8

The Apollo 8 craters were named by the IAU's Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature

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Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong
The Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag used by astronaut Neil Armstrong, to be offered at auction, is displayed at Sotheby's in New York, July 13, 2017. VOA

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named two lunar craters to honour NASA’s Apollo 8 spacecraft, 50 years after the historic voyage carried three astronauts into orbit around the moon for the first time in 1968.

Named “8 Homeward” and “Anders’ Earthrise”, both craters are visible in the iconic earthrise colour photograph image shot by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, the IAU said in a statement on Friday.

The image depicts the moment that our shiny blue Earth came back into view as the spacecraft emerged out of the dark from behind the grey and barren Moon.

“This is arguably the most famous picture taken by Apollo 8. It became iconic and has been credited with starting the environmental movement,” the IAU said.

Apollo 8
The Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union has today officially approved the naming of two craters on the Moon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission. IAU.org

Since the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth — it always has the same side facing the Earth — the Earth will never appear to rise above the surface to someone standing on the lunar far side.

Orbiting around the Moon, however, gave the Apollo 8 astronauts this stunning view.

Anders, mission commander Frank Borman and James Lovell became the first humans to reach the moon after they blasted off atop a giant Saturn 5 rocket on December 21, 1968, and braked into orbit around the moon that Christmas Eve.

After 10 orbits, broadcasting images back to Earth and giving live television transmissions, the crew returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

planet, apollo 8
A planet-like object, dubbed “Sedna” is seen in this artist’s concept released by NASA, March 26, 2014. A similar dwarf planet, nicknamed “the Goblin,” has been discovered well beyond Pluto.. VOA

Six-and-a-half months later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface, taking “a giant leap for mankind”.

Also Read: Voyager Probe 2 May Be Close to Interstellar Space: NASA

The Apollo 8 craters were named by the IAU’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, the authority responsible for naming planetary features across the solar system. (IANS)