LONDON-Mankind's first home away from Earth may soon be discovered, as new research shows that frozen water may be lurking beneath the moon's surface - giving new hope that the dusty planet could sustain human life.
Scientists say they've discovered traces of a rare mineral, called moganite, in a lunar meteorite that was found 13 years ago in northwest Africa.
Mogamite, which is a crystal similar to quartz, requires the presence of water in order to form, so its discovery is being hailed as new proof that frozen water exists beneath the moon's surface. It's already widely known that water exists in the moon's north and south poles.
But the new discovery gives credence to the belief that there may be frozen water that exists underneath more areas of the moon's surface.
A team of scientists from Japan's Tohoku University believe that the mineral formed on the surface of the moon in a region known as Procellarum Terrane.
Water may have existed there long ago before being evaporated from lunar dirt that was exposed to harsh sunlight, the researchers say.
But as the lunar meteorite suggests, there may be additional water hiding underneath the moon's surface that has yet to evaporate, since it's been protected from strong sunlight.
'For the first time, we can prove that there is water ice in the lunar material,' Masahiro Kayama, who led the study, told Space.com.
'In a moganite, there is less water, because moganite forms from the evaporation of water'
'That's the case on the surface of the moon. But in the subsurface, much water remains as ice, because it's protected from the sunlight,' he added.
Kayama believes water may have been delivered to the moon roughly three billion years ago by asteroids and comets.
Then, for a brief stretch of time, water may have existed on the moon, before seeping below the surface and cooling.
He believes that many years later, a comet may have hurtled toward the moon's surface, sending the lunar meteorites into space and later to earth's surface. The researchers say it's not possible that the moganite formed in the meteorite after it came to earth, as it landed in the desert where the conditions for brecciation don't exist.
However, the scientists say it's still not a clear indicator that more water exists on the moon.
They believe more samples need to be collected from the moon's surface in order for that to be proven.
Still, the discovery serves as a sign of hope for experts who believe the moon could one day be suitable for human colonization.
In order for that to happen, humans' next home planet will have to have bodies of water or at least an indication that water exists in some form.