Category Archives: The Moon

Apollo 14 Samples Reveal the True Age of Our Moon

The Moon on Jan. 8, 2017. (© Jason Major)

The Moon on Jan. 8, 2017. (© Jason Major)

Turns out the Moon is even older than we thought—if just by a few dozen million years. Using samples of lunar material collected by Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell in February 1971, a team of researchers from UCLA, the University of Chicago, and Princeton have determined that the Moon must have formed within the first 60 million years after the birth of the Solar System, based on dating of uranium-lead isotopes inside fragments of lunar zircons. Their findings put the age of our Moon at at least 4.51 billion years old (give or take a few million years)…about 40-50 million years older than even some of the oldest previous estimates. That’s a lot more candles for Luna’s birthday cake!

Read more about this story here.

Solar Storms Set Off Tiny Explosions In Shadowed Lunar Soil

Powerful solar storms can charge up the soil in frigid, permanently shadowed regions near the lunar poles, and may possibly produce “sparks” that could vaporize and melt the soil—perhaps as much as meteoroid impacts, according to new NASA-funded research.

Read the rest of this article from NASA here: Solar Storms Could Spark Lunar Soil

What’s So Super About a Supermoon?

Full Moon rising over the Conimicut Point Light in Warwick, RI. Sept. 16, 2016. © Jason Major.

Full Moon rising over the Conimicut Point Light in Warwick, RI. Sept. 16, 2016. © Jason Major.

You’ve probably heard the news or read the headlines: the full Moon on November 14 will be a “supermoon,” and in fact the biggest and brightest one since 1948 and until 2034. But what does that really mean and what can we expect to see in the night sky?

In all honesty it won’t be that much different from the garden variety, mild-mannered regular full Moon. (But it will still be no less beautiful to look at!)

Read the rest of this entry

Watch a Moonwalker Prove Galileo Right: Dave Scott’s Famous Hammer-Feather Drop

On August 2, 1971, at the end of the last EVA of the Apollo 15 mission, Commander David Scott took a few minutes to conduct a classic science experiment in front of the TV camera that had been set up just outside the LM Falcon at the Hadley Rille landing site. Scott, a former Air Force pilot, recreated a famous demonstration often attributed to Galileo (which may or may not have actually been performed by the astronomer in Pisa in 1586) that shows how objects of different masses react the same way to gravity when dropped – that is, they fall at the same rate.

By performing the “acceleration test” in the vacuum environment of space (but where there is still an observable downward pull of gravity) the Earthly factor of air resistance is negated – especially on such a low-mass and low-density object as a falcon feather – thereby creating a more “pristine” setting for the centuries-old experiment than could ever be achieved here.

Read the rest of this entry

The Moon’s Dark Seas Are Scars From Ancient Strikes—Even Bigger Than We Thought

Mare Imbrium, one of the large dark basalt "seas" on the Moon's near side. (Photo: J. Major)

Mare Imbrium—the “Sea of Rains”—one of the large dark basalt lava flows on the Moon’s near side. (Photo: J. Major)

When you look up at a full or full-ish Moon you can’t help but notice the large dark spots that mark its Earth-facing side. These form the face of what many call the “Man in the Moon” (or the body of a Moon rabbit, to others) and are individually called mare (“MAR-ay”) which is the Latin word for sea. Early astronomers thought they were bodies of water, but in reality they are solidified dark lava flows from ancient lunar impact events that occurred several billion years ago.

One of the biggest lunar seas, Mare Imbrium (see above), had for a while been thought to have been created by the impact of an asteroid or meteorite somewhere around 50 miles across, based solely on computer models.

Now, research conducted by Brown University professor Dr. Peter Schultz—a specialist in lunar and planetary impacts—indicates that the object that formed Mare Imbrium was likely more massive and of much larger size than once thought…perhaps even as big as 190 miles wide.

Read the rest of this entry

Neil Armstrong Was The First Person On The Moon And THIS Is Our Best Picture Of Him There?!?

Panorama from Apollo 11 showing Neil Armstrong at the LM Eagle (NASA)

Panorama from Apollo 11 showing Neil Armstrong at the LM Eagle, with the US flag and Solar Wind Experiment at left. (NASA)

Everyone knows that Apollo 11 commander Neil A. Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the Moon (and if you didn’t know, that occurred on July 20, 1969 – yes, it really happened). It was a momentous, history-making event that many (like myself) consider one of the most impressive achievements of humankind. But oddly enough, even with high-resolution Hasselblad film cameras there on location, there are very few photos showing Armstrong himself on the surface of the Moon. In fact the one above, an otherwise very nice panorama captured by fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, really is the best image in existence of Armstrong on the Moon.

So…why is that?

Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: