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Moon dust

The Moon's Peculiar Dust Gets More Peculiar Still

The moon has never had all that much. It doesn't have atmosphere, it doesn't have water and it sure doesn't have life. What it does have though is dirt -- lots and lots of dirt -- and it's some of the coolest stuff you ever saw. Now it's gotten cooler still, thanks to the discovery this week of a wholly unexpected ingredient stirred into the lunar mix.

Even before astronauts landed on the moon, they knew the soil would be something special. With no atmosphere to intercept incoming meteorites and micrometeorites, the lunar regolith -- or surface covering -- would have been subjected to a 4.5 billion year bombardment that would have produced a layer of dust far finer than confectioner's sugar. That dust, the Apollo crewmen found when they went out to play in it, did some strange things: it rose above the surface when disturbed and hung there far longer than could be explained by the moon's weak gravity; it crept deep into the weave and cracks of virtually anything it touched and clung there as if adhesively attached. What's more, it was filled with exquisitely fine green and orange glass beads -- the products of the superheated melting and cooling that followed impacts.

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