Through the Past, Darkly

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One of the many mysteries of the moon is the presence of ice in the craters of its poles: Astronomers have detected signs of water in the hundreds of craters that are in permanent shadow – and where temperatures can dip below 418 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yet, Earth’s satellite is completely dry and constantly pummeled by solar winds that can destroy water molecules – even in perpetual darkness.

Now, a research team wrote in a new study that these craters – and water molecules – are protected by ancient magnetic fields, Science Magazine reported.

Lead author Lon Hood and his team explained that the moon is packed with magnetic anomalies, which were first discovered in the 1970s. These remnants of the moon’s past are believed to have been created more than four billion years ago when the satellite had a magnetic field and iron-rich asteroids hit its surface.

“These anomalies can deflect the solar wind,” Hood said. “We think they could be quite significant in shielding the permanently shadowed regions.”

Data from the moon’s south pole showed that at least two shadowed craters are overlapped by these anomalies. Hood said there could be more.

Although not as strong as Earth’s magnetic field, these anomalies are tough enough to deflect solar wind.

The shielded craters could become a target for future scientific investigation and exploration: Currently, NASA is planning to send a rover to the moon’s south pole next year and bring back humans to the space rock sometime this decade.

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