Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dusty Moon as problem and opportunity

On April 17, in Lunar Dust: Phenomena and Hazard, I attempted to sum up the state of science with regard to "the lunar dust phenomena." I won't repeat that summary except to add an idea regarding the "Moon-as-Rosetta Stone of the Solar System," notion.

This morning Eric Berger, "the SciGuy" at the Houston Chronicle, writes about some "really, really, really old dust" found by high flying collection experiments successfully sampling a comet's tail.

"Six years ago," Berger wrote, "Earth traveled through the tail of an obscure comet named 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup, and scientists thought it would be cool to fly a plane 12 miles into the atmosphere and capture some particles."

They probably did not expect to find dust grains from a large gaseous cloud that pre-dates the birth of our own star and probably served as its nursery.

It's a fascinating briefing, and I recommend it highly, but it reminded me once again of the wide variety of trace material there is to be found on the Moon and what it is likely to teach us about the history of the solar system, and perhaps long before.

If such dust grains sputter off a comet, one of hundreds that charge in from the outer solar system each year, and it can be gathered in lower stratospheric flight, what will we one day be able to gather on the Moon?

Catch Eric Berger's "really, really old dust" post HERE.

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