For years, scientists across the globe have been working to determine if moon, our only natural satellite, carries water or not. Several studies and theories have been posited in this respect, but the lingering question still remains unanswered with little to no physical evidence.

However, just recently, a group of scientists hailing from Japan found an evidence that suggests frozen caches of water might be hiding under the dusty lunar surface. The find, if confirmed, could mean a major breakthrough in science and enable long-term water supply for future lunar explorers and colonizers.

The evidence in question is a mineral called moganite. It only forms in the presence of water and has been observed in a lunar meteorite discovered in an African desert some 13 years ago. As Gizmodo reported, the discovery of the crystal-like structure is unprecedented as all lunar surface samples brought back as part of the Apollo missions didn’t have any trace of water.

"For the first time, we can prove that there is water ice in the lunar material," Masahiro Kayama from Tohoku University, who led the work, told Space.com. "

37912591295_7c30a77efd_o Mineral requiring presence of water discovered in lunar meteorite. Pictured, International Space Station in front of the moon. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The meteorite studied by the team, dubbed NWA2727, is one of the several hundred bits and pieces of the moon that flung and crashed onto our planet following the impact of comets and other space objects on the lunar surface thousands of years ago. As Phys.org reported, this piece, in particular, landed in the desert is some 17,000 years ago.

That said, the research team posits water might have been delivered to the moon from asteroids and comets that crashed on its surface several billion years ago. They think it might have stayed on the lunar surface for some time before seeping into the ground and being trapped between the subsurface rocks of the satellite. Then follow-up collisions in the ensuing period disrupted the system and hurtled meteorites towards Earth including the rock with moganite formed due to the presence of water.

Though it is possible the mineral got into the meteorite after it crashed on our planet, the team denies that case because the conditions in the dry desert were not suitable for its formation. In the past, space probes and remote sensing satellites have also hinted at the possibility of underground water near the moon’s South Pole, but this work is the first physical evidence to give insight into the presence subsurface water.

They need to analyze more samples to build on these findings, but if the presence of water ice is confirmed on moon, future exploration missions will become way easier than they are today.

"We wouldn't need to bring all the water for drinking and the fuel to return to Earth or to travel to Mars, for example, with us from Earth," Kayama told Space.com. "If water is abundant in the lunar subsurface, we can easily use it."

The study, "Discovery of moganite in a lunar meteorite as a trace of H2O ice in the Moon’s regolith," has been published in the journal Science Advances