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Moon and Aldebaran

November 12, 2011

It’s been almost 40 years since the last Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon. Yet scientists are still making discoveries from the treasures they brought back — more than 800 pounds of rock and soil.

About half of those samples have been used up. But the rest are still in storage, awaiting new analyses with new or more sensitive tools and techniques. In fact, planetary scientists have recently published several intriguing reports based on modern analyses of the Apollo samples.

One team, for example, found that the Moon rocks contain much more water than had been detected with older techniques. The extra water presents a challenge to the leading theory of the Moon’s formation, which says the Moon should have very little water indeed.

Another team determined the age of a rock that could be from the Moon’s original crust. The analysis came up with an age that’s a couple of hundred million years younger than some earlier studies. One possible conclusion is that the Moon formed later than most models have indicated — although that interpretation is pretty controversial.

Since scientists aren’t likely to get any more lunar samples for many years, the Apollo moonrocks will continue to be a valuable scientific resource for a long time to come.

And the Moon is in great view tonight. It rises in early evening, with a bright orange star a little to its right: Aldebaran, the “eye” of Taurus, the bull.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011


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