The Moon May Have Cradled Life Four Billion Years Ago, Research Shows
The Moon’s landscape has remained dead for billions of years. At least that’s the traditional scientific dogma on lunar life. But a recent study could upend centuries of scientific understanding about life on the Moon.
A study published in the journal Astrobiology in 2018 suggests the Moon could have harbored life during the early phases of its development, referring to “windows of habitability” four billion years ago.
According to the researchers, conditions on the Moon’s surface could have supported simple lifeforms when the Moon was just a freshly formed celestial body four billion years ago, and when its volcanoes peaked in volcanic activity 3.5 billion years ago.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at Washington State University is the author of the study. According to him, the Moon was ejecting large quantities of superheated volatile gases, including water vapor from its interior that could have created an atmosphere and the presence of liquid water.
“If liquid water and a significant atmosphere were present on the early Moon for millions of years, it can be assumed that the lunar surface was at least transiently habitable and probably also had an inventory of the building blocks required for life,” reads the study.
Data used by the study came from soil and rock samples from the Moon, which had characteristic qualities indicating the presence of water on the lunar surface billions of years ago. “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.”
Their findings coincide with the time when life started to appear on Earth around four billion years ago, when planets in the solar system were experiencing frequent bombardment of meteorites. Meteorites are thought to have brought microbial life to Earth. Parts of those life-carrying meteorites could have bounced off the planet and landed on the Moon’s watery surface, allowing life to thrive.
An active magnetic field would have also protected the Moon’s atmosphere and the life it cradled from destructive solar winds. This magnetic field is now dead because the Moon’s magmatic core is no longer active since the Moon has cooled down inside, being a smaller solar object than Earth.