Letter | Published:

Volatile content of lunar volcanic glasses and the presence of water in the Moon’s interior

Nature volume 454, pages 192195 (10 July 2008) | Download Citation



The Moon is generally thought to have formed and evolved through a single or a series of catastrophic heating events1, during which most of the highly volatile elements were lost. Hydrogen, being the lightest element, is believed to have been completely lost during this period2. Here we make use of considerable advances in secondary ion mass spectrometry3 to obtain improved limits on the indigenous volatile (CO2, H2O, F, S and Cl) contents of the most primitive basalts in the Moon—the lunar volcanic glasses. Although the pre-eruptive water content of the lunar volcanic glasses cannot be precisely constrained, numerical modelling of diffusive degassing of the very-low-Ti glasses provides a best estimate of 745 p.p.m. water, with a minimum of 260 p.p.m. at the 95 per cent confidence level. Our results indicate that, contrary to prevailing ideas, the bulk Moon might not be entirely depleted in highly volatile elements, including water. Thus, the presence of water must be considered in models constraining the Moon’s formation and its thermal and chemical evolution.

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We thank J. Delano for guidance on sample selection, P. Hess for exchange of ideas, M. Chaussidon, J. Longhi and T. Grove for reviews, J. Wang and J. Devine for technical assistance, and the NASA Cosmochemistry programme and the NASA Astrobiology Institute for support.

Author information


  1. Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA

    • Alberto E. Saal
    • , Mauro L. Cascio
    • , Malcolm C. Rutherford
    •  & Reid F. Cooper
  2. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington DC 20015, USA

    • Erik H. Hauri
  3. Department of Geological Sciences Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA

    • James A. Van Orman


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Correspondence to Alberto E. Saal.

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