Nanoparticles May Explain Moon Dirt’s Odd Behavior_Featured_, Space Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
The famously strange behavior of lunar soil may be caused by nanoparticles embedded in the dirt, a new study reports.
The study found that nanoparticles — specks of matter whose tiny size imparts exotic and often bizarre properties — are common in samples of moon dirt brought back to Earth by Apollo astronauts.
The discovery may explain why moon soil is such a poor conductor of heat, why it hovers above the lunar surface far longer than gravity should allow, and why it’s so sticky and abrasive — characteristics observed, and sometimes deplored, by moonwalking astronauts four decades ago.
Inside the glass beads
The researchers studied lunar soil samples using synchrotron-based nano tomography. This technique creates 3D images of nanoparticles by blasting them with X-rays. [Photos: NASA's Apollo Moon Missions]
The team was particularly interested in looking at tiny glass beads scattered throughout the moon dirt, which scientists believe were created by the intense heat of micrometeorite impacts on the lunar surface.
“We were really surprised at what we found,” study leader Marek Zbik, of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, said in a statement. “Instead of gas or vapor inside the bubbles, which we would expect to find in such bubbles on Earth, the lunar glass bubbles were filled with a highly porous network of alien-looking glassy particles that span the bubbles’ interior.”