Features of lunar dust and the phenomenon of the iridescent moon

(ORDO NEWS) — In Arthur Clarke’s novel Moondust, the tourist cruiser Selena sank with all her passengers in a sea of ​​moondust. In 1961, when the novel was published, there was a real concern that the moon was covered with a thick layer of dust, making landing on it impossible.

Fortunately, these fears turned out to be unfounded, since the earth’s satellite is covered with a thin layer of fine dust, which does not pose any danger to spacecraft, but to people …

Features of moon dust

Astronauts who set foot on the lunar surface as part of the NASA Apollo program cited lunar dust as one of the most serious problems: it heavily soiled spacesuits, penetrated into every corner and gap of the descent module, and it also smelled obtrusively of gunpowder.

It is worth noting that Harrison Schmitt, the only geologist who visited the moon as part of the last Apollo 17 mission, suffered from an allergy to lunar dust (he had watery eyes, he often coughed and sneezed).

Analysis of the samples showed that lunar dust consists of tiny and rather sharp nanoparticles that can settle in the lungs, cause breathing problems and even lead to respiratory diseases.

In addition, there are concerns that lunar dust could be toxic. All this is relevant, of course, in conditions of a sufficiently long contact with her.

Features of lunar dust and the phenomenon of the iridescent moon 2
Lunar dust under the microscope

Lunar dust is formed when pea-sized micrometeorites crash into the moon’s surface, shattering and heating rock. The formed “nano-fragments” are very different from smooth terrestrial grains of sand and are more like the pointed edges of snowflakes. Being so “jagged”, moon dust easily clings to the suit.

It is noteworthy that the specific form of lunar dust forces it to reflect sunlight unevenly. This explains the Apollo astronauts’ claim that the lunar surface is far from drab gray; it shimmers with beautiful colors, from brown to gold and silver (the phenomenon of the “iridescent moon”).

Continuous bombardment by micrometeorites overturns the lunar “soil” approximately every ten million years. So the traces left by the astronauts will one day disappear anyway.


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