Life on the Moon? Maybe Long Ago

By John Wenz | July 23, 2018 4:17 pm
Areas of the moon locked in permanent shadow, like those shown here, can still harbor water. But long ago, water was abundant across the moon. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Areas of the moon locked in permanent shadow, like those shown here, can still harbor water. But long ago, water was abundant across the moon. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Today, the moon is about as inhospitable to life as it gets. The little water that’s there is trapped in ice or rock. It’s otherwise dry and airless, fluctuating in temperature by hundreds of degrees anywhere the sun shines. But long ago? That’s an entirely different story.

New research published in Astrobiology suggests that the moon may have been shockingly habitable in the past during at least two periods — shortly after the moon formed, and when volcanic activity was at its highest.

The key to it all is heat and lots of energy. The moon formed after a collision between Earth and a proto-planet astronomers call Theia. And just after the smash up, there was lots of water vapor — enough that the moon could’ve had a fairly substantial atmosphere and pools of water on the ground. Volcanic activity was also high, which could have replenished the atmosphere with water vapor from deep in the interior.

That all happened roughly 4 billion years ago.

And by the time volcanic activity settled down some 500 million years after the collision, the atmosphere couldn’t cling on — and much like Mars, the moon dried up.

But in that 500 million-plus year span, all the ingredients for life may well have been present.

That habitable era also fell during a period of frequent asteroid bombardment, so the inner solar system may have shared with the moon ingredients to make life possible. Asteroids could have even struck early Earth and transported primitive bacteria to the surface of the moon.

If it existed, though, lunar life wouldn’t really have had long to evolve far beyond single cell organisms.

However, there’s abundant evidence that the early lunar water is still trapped within rock now. So, digging a little deeper under the surface of the moon — in, say, a lunar exploration program — could yield greater evidence for lunar life, including the possibility of fossilized microbes trapped in rock.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
  • OWilson

    Or, alternately, we could just save time and money and cut to the chase.

    Just dig a little deeper into the asteroids, that many continue to believe, carry the “primitive bacteria” that seeded life here on our piece of rock?

    • Philip Jackson

      I think both are inevitable, in fact Jaxa is on a proper asteroid digging mission now! :)

      • OWilson

        The Japanese have successfully brought back samples from asteriods on at least 2 occasions. See Hayabusa1 and Hayabusa2.

        An amazing scientific feat that barely got a mention in an MSM obsessed with political probes closer to home! :)

        No evidence of that “primitive bacteria” believed to be responsible for seeding life in our solar system was found!

        The ESA has also analysed caaptured comet dust in one of their Rosetta probes with similar results.

        But there are billions of objects floating around the solar system, and as a poster above observed, it never hurts to look!

        But it may take a while! :)

        • StanChaz

          It does “hurt to look”, if the the time and resources involved could be put to more productive and immediate uses. And those “political probes” that you dismiss so cavalierly are both valid and germane with regard to the people who are making those choices, one way or another. With the current traitorous crew in charge we play with a Space Force instead of funding basic research, while our planet suffers as we disregard climate change.

          • OWilson

            We all have our personal priorities and in a democratic sosiety, we don’t necessarily share them.

            The voters, according to Gallup, and your current crop of elected officials, place Russian Collusion Probes, and climate change near the bottom of their concerns.

            That may be unfortunate or fortunate, depending on your own personal political proclivities. :)

            In a perfect world, we would have the money to deal with them all our issues, but with the present spiraling National Debt, resources are limited. :)

  • Uncle Al

    One tires of ideas displacing facts being social realignment.

    • StanChaz

      You been drinkin’ again uncle?
      We’re tired of it I tell you, tired of it!
      And that’s a fact.

      • kapnlogos

        My theory about Uncle AI is that the AI stands for artificial intelligence and he is a bot.

  • Mike Richardson

    Well, if we’re going back to the moon, we may as well check for the possibility of ancient life, even if it is remote. Give what we know of selenology — the lunar counterpart of geology — it’s pretty unlikely a conducive environment for the development of life existed for a sufficient period of time. But it never hurts to look, I suppose.

    • StanChaz

      Let’s fix the New York subway system first.

      • kapnlogos

        Let New York fix it’s subway system.

      • Mike Richardson

        I think we can probably walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. But I agree that infrastructure is important — I’ll see your New York subway system and raise with Louisiana highways!

  • bandit ofthesky

    Lets fix Earth and keep it habitable for us before we even begin to worry about whats anywhere else, obviously those environments failed.

    It will cost alot less money and effort to save Earth than to terraform a place like Mars for example.
    The best solution is usually the easiest and most obvious.


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