There may be vast stores of water on the moon, a discovery that could be good news for future lunar explorers. Brown University scientists detected large quantities of water "glass beads" trapped in ancient volcanic deposits across the moon's surface, indicating there's far more water deep below the surface, Space.com reports. "It may be that the bulk interior of the moon is wet," says lead author Ralph Milliken in a news release. He tells CNN the rock fields span thousands of square miles and may be several miles deep. "It's more water than previously recognized," he says. Until 2008, scientists believed the moon was largely a dry planet, but then trace amounts of water were detected in glass beads from rock deposits collected during the Apollo 15 and 17 missions.
It was not known if the beads were an anomaly until the current study, reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, which used satellite data to analyze most of the large deposits of lunar rock previously found. Milliken's team detected the presence of water in all of the deposits. How the water got there "is still a big question," says co-author Shuai Li. Finding the answer could could shed light on the origins of the moon, which is believed to be the byproduct of a crash between Earth and a massive comet or planet. The heat from such a collision was believed to have vaporized any hydrogen needed to form water. Extracting water from the beads could "save future lunar explorers from having to bring lots of water from home," Li says, adding that would be "a big step forward." (There was an auction of actual moon dust.)