Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Remote detection of magmatic water in Bullialdus Crater on the Moon


Once considered dry compared with Earth, laboratory analyses of igneous components of lunar samples have suggested that the Moon’s interior is not entirely anhydrous1,2. Water and hydroxyl have also been detected from orbit on the lunar surface, but these have been attributed to nonindigenous sources3,4,5, such as interactions with the solar wind. Magmatic lunar volatiles—evidence for water indigenous to the lunar interior—have not previously been detected remotely. Here we analyse spectroscopic data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) and report that the central peak of Bullialdus Crater is significantly enhanced in hydroxyl relative to its surroundings. We suggest that the strong and localized hydroxyl absorption features are inconsistent with a surficial origin. Instead, they are consistent with hydroxyl bound to magmatic minerals that were excavated from depth by the impact that formed Bullialdus Crater. Furthermore, estimates of thorium concentration in the central peak using data from the Lunar Prospector orbiter indicate an enhancement in incompatible elements, in contrast to the compositions of water-bearing lunar samples2. We suggest that the hydroxyl-bearing material was excavated from a magmatic source that is distinct from that of samples analysed thus far.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Context and spectral parameter maps of Bullialdus Crater.
Figure 2: Spectra of Bullialdus Crater and the surrounding region.
Figure 3: Geology of Bullialdus Crater central peak.
Figure 4: Thorium content of Bullialdus Crater central peak.


  1. Saal, A. E. et al. Volatile content of lunar volcanic glasses and the presence of water in the Moon’s interior. Nature 454, 192–195 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. McCubbin, F. M. et al. Fluorine and chlorine abundances in lunar apatite: Implications for heterogeneous distributions of magmatic volatiles in the lunar interior. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 75, 5073–5093 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Pieters, C. M. et al. Character and spatial distribution of OH/H2O on the surface of the Moon seen by M3 on Chandrayaan-1. Science 326, 568–572 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Clark, R. N. Detection of adsorbed water and hydroxyl on the Moon. Science 326, 562–564 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Sunshine, J. M. et al. Temporal and spatial variability of lunar hydration as observed by the Deep Impact spacecraft. Science 326, 565–568 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Feldman, W. et al. Fluxes of fast and epithermal neutrons from lunar prospector: Evidence for water ice at the lunar poles. Science 281, 1496–1500 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Colaprete, A. et al. Detection of water in the LCROSS ejecta plume. Science 330, 463–468 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. McCord, T. B. et al. Sources and physical processes responsible for the OH/H2O in the lunar soil as revealed by the Moon Mineralogy mapper (M3). J. Geophys. Res. 116, E00G05 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Arnold, J. R. Ice in the lunar polar regions. J. Geophys. Res. 84, 5659–5668 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Hibbitts, C. C. et al. Thermal stability of water and hydroxyl on the surface of the Moon from temperature-programmed desorption measurements of lunar analog materials. Icarus 213, 64–72 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Crider, D. H. & Vondrak, R. R. The solar wind as a possible source of lunar polar hydrogen deposits. J. Geophys. Res. 105, 26773–26782 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Liu, Y. et al. Direct measurement of hydroxyl in the lunar regolith and the origin of lunar surface water. Nature Geosci. 5, 779–782 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Jolliff, B. L., Gillis, J. J., Haskin, L. A., Korotev, R. L. & Wieczorek, M. A. Major lunar crustal terranes: Surface expressions and crust–mantle origins. J. Geophys. Res. 105, 4197–4216 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Lawrence, D. J. et al. Small-area thorium features on the lunar surface. J. Geophys. Res. 108, JE002050 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Pieters, C. M. Bullialdus—strengthening the case for lunar plutons. Geophys. Res. Lett. 18, 2129–2131 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Tompkins, S., Pieters, C. M., Mustard, J. F., Pinet, P. & Chevrel, S. D. Distribution of materials excavated by the lunar crater Bullialdus and implications for the geologic history of the Nubium region. Icarus 110, 261–274 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Cahill, J. T. & Lucey, P. G. Radiative transfer modeling of lunar highlands spectral classes and relationship to lunar samples. J. Geophys. Res. 112, 10007 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Johnson, E. A. in Water in Nominally Anhydrous Minerals Vol. 62 (eds Keppler, H. & Smyth, J. R.) 117–154 (Mineralogical Society of America, 2006).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  19. Wang, K. L., Zhang, Y. X. & Naab, F. U. Calibration for IR measurements of OH in apatite. Am. Mineral. 96, 1392–1397 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Lucey, P. G., Blewett, D. T., Taylor, G. J. & Hawke, B. R. Imaging of lunar surface maturity. J. Geophys. Res. 105, 20377–20386 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Cahill, J. T. S., Lucey, P. G. & Wieczorek, M. A. Compositional variations of the lunar crust: Results from radiative transfer modeling of central peak spectra. J. Geophys. Res. 114, 09001 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Klima, R. L. et al. New insights into lunar petrology: Distribution and composition of prominent low-Ca pyroxene exposures as observed by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3). J. Geophys. Res. 116, E00G06 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Hapke, B. Theory of Reflectance and Emittance Spectroscopy 2nd edn (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Lucey, P. G. Model near-infrared optical constants of olivine and pyroxene as a function of iron content. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 1703–1713 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Libowitzky, E. & Rossman, G. An IR absorption calibration for water in minerals. Am. Mineral. 82, 1111–1115 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Lawrence, D. J. et al. Improved modeling of Lunar Prospector neutron spectrometer data: Implications for hydrogen deposits at the lunar poles. J. Geophys. Res. 111, E08001 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  27. Mitrofanov, I. G. et al. Lunar exploration neutron detector for the NASA lunar reconnaissance orbiter. Space Sci. Rev. 150, 183–207 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Hagerty, J. J. et al. Refined thorium abundances for lunar red spots: Implications for evolved, nonmare volcanism on the Moon. J. Geophys. Res. 111, E06002 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Papike, J. J., Ryder, G. & Shearer, C. K. in Planetary Materials Vol. 36 (ed. Papike, J. J) 1–189 (Mineralogical Society of America, 1998).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  30. Scholten, F. et al. GLD100: The near-global lunar 100 m raster DTM from LROC WAC stereo image data. J. Geophys. Res. 117, E00H17 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the NASA Lunar Advanced Science and Engineering Program (NNX10AH62G to RK/JHUAPL), the NASA National Lunar Science Institute Polar Exploration Node (NNA09DB31A to JHUAPL) and the NASA Planetary Mission Data Analysis Program (NNH09AL42I to JH/USGS) for supporting this research. We are also grateful to the NASA Discovery Program, Indian Space Research Organization and M3 team.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



All authors contributed extensively to this work. R.K. wrote the main manuscript with comments and feedback from the whole team. R.K. led analysis and modelling of M3 data, J.C. led processing and analysis of LROC data and J.H. and D.L. contributed the thorium analyses and forward modelling.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. Klima.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 26407 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Klima, R., Cahill, J., Hagerty, J. et al. Remote detection of magmatic water in Bullialdus Crater on the Moon. Nature Geosci 6, 737–741 (2013).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing