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Old 23rd July 2009, 11:22 AM   #1
Ashles
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Glass Balls on Moon?

I have just come across this article about evidence of water on the moon.

I am confused about a couple of things:

Quote:
Tiny green and orange glass balls brought back from the moon nearly 40 years ago by astronauts show evidence that water existed there from the very beginning, scientists reported on Wednesday….
Did they bring back glass balls from the surface of the moon?
If so how does that indicate evidence of water?

Quote:
A Brown-led research team has for the first time found evidence of water deep within the Moon. In a paper published in the July 10 issue of the journal Nature, the researchers believe the water was contained in lunar magmas ejected more than 3 billion years ago.
I didn't know the moon was volcanic?

(Apologies if all the anwswers are in the linked article - I have typed this in a rush before leaving work).
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Old 23rd July 2009, 11:33 AM   #2
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If I recall, the "glass balls" were microscopic. Maybe they just found a molecule or two?
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Old 23rd July 2009, 11:40 AM   #3
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Tiny spheres of glassy material are one of the most striking components of moon dust. These were discovered pretty much immediately after the first Apollo lunar samples were examined.

I remember reading that since glass spheres tend to reflect light back in the direction it came from (like the glass beads used in the retroreflective paint on highway signs and painted highway markings), their presence helps explain the moon's high albedo when the angle of incidence of light is close to normal to the surface, and hence why the full moon is so much brighter than other phases. (I don't know the relative importance of the glass beads to other factors.)

In the new study, researchers used secondary mass ion spectrometry to detect actual traces of water in the actual samples.

There is no volcanism (and no molten core) in the moon today, but the whole thing would have been molten when it formed and apparently volcanism would have occurred up until about 3 billion years ago. As on earth, volcanism would have been driven by convection within a molten core as the moon's surface cooled first (since the surface is where the heat is lost as radiation). Tidal forces might also have contributed, but I don't know how significant that contribution would be.

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Last edited by Myriad; 23rd July 2009 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 23rd July 2009, 11:40 AM   #4
JoeTheJuggler
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Originally Posted by Ashles View Post
I didn't know the moon was volcanic?
It is no longer, but 3 billion years ago it still was.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology...ologic_history

Now, it has a small molten core, and a relatively thick crust.
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Last edited by JoeTheJuggler; 23rd July 2009 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 23rd July 2009, 11:51 AM   #5
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The Lunar Maria are basic lava flows.
Technically, lava is an "igneous" rock, but on Earth it's generally so associated with volcanoes that it's often referred to as a "volcanic" rock.
Ocean bottoms on Earth are mostly basalt, but unless you choose to call a mid ocean ridge "a volcano", it's not technically "volcanic".

How much of the heat that melted the rock that flooded the Maria was due to impact and how much was internal is still in doubt. Remember the "Geo" in "Geology" means "Earth" . Some of the terminology may not translate exactly to Selenology.

"Volcanic" glasses (eg Obsidian) contain water. To say water on the moon "Has been there from the start and is not from comets" strikes me as pretty meaningless. A lot of what formed the Moon from the start was either comets - which have water, or bits of the Earth- also known for having water.
Seems to me saying moon rocks have water is about as surprising as saying they contain silica.
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Old 23rd July 2009, 12:13 PM   #6
Checkmite
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Originally Posted by JoeTheJuggler View Post
Kind of like a Hot Pocket, really.

And like SS says, the dark patches on the Moon are flood basalts. Some of them may have been caused by convection or plumes in what passes for the Moon's mantle; still others were likely precipitated by impact events. There is little in the way of volcanic activity on the Moon now. And by little, I mean "I haven't heard of any, period". Unless I'm missing something, the Moon is fairly dead, even geologically.
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Old 23rd July 2009, 12:46 PM   #7
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Glass spheres (maybe it would be better to write blob-like things) named tektites may be generated here by large impactors. Molten material is ejected, cools very quickly (no time for crystal formation) and falls down after a short suborbital trip.

Survival of this type of material in the Moon, where there is no chemical weathering, would be more likely than here on Earth.

However, they are, if I remember correctly, quite dry (at least when compared with the Earth's crust).
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Old 23rd July 2009, 12:56 PM   #8
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Glass balls on the moon? I know on July 20, 1969, there were 2 sets of brass ones.

Last edited by jamrat; 23rd July 2009 at 12:57 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 23rd July 2009, 01:16 PM   #9
Soapy Sam
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Originally Posted by Correa Neto View Post
Glass spheres (maybe it would be better to write blob-like things) named tektites may be generated here by large impactors. Molten material is ejected, cools very quickly (no time for crystal formation) and falls down after a short suborbital trip.

Survival of this type of material in the Moon, where there is no chemical weathering, would be more likely than here on Earth.

However, they are, if I remember correctly, quite dry (at least when compared with the Earth's crust).
I know a lady with Moldavite earrings. Very pretty green glass.
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Old 23rd July 2009, 01:26 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Tidal forces might also have contributed, but I don't know how significant that contribution would be.

Respectfully,
Myriad
If you look at the difference in terrain between the far and near sides of the Moon you can see the impact tidal forces had on the Moons vulcanism. The near side seems to be dominated by maria - lava flows. Were as the far side only has one or two small outlfow
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Old 23rd July 2009, 02:20 PM   #11
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Quote:
Tiny green and orange glass balls brought back from the moon nearly 40 years ago by astronauts
So that's where I lost my marbles.

I must have been higher than I thought.
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Old 23rd July 2009, 02:23 PM   #12
JoeTheJuggler
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Unless I'm missing something, the Moon is fairly dead, even geologically.
That's what I said: "It is no longer, but 3 billion years ago it still was."

However, the evidence does suggest that the very small iron core is still molten or at least partially molten. That certainly doesn't mean there is any vulcanism nowadays!
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Old 23rd July 2009, 02:25 PM   #13
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<derail>
Originally Posted by bokonon View Post
So that's where I lost my marbles.
In Orlando Furioso, there's an incident where one of the heroes goes to the Moon (on a hippogriff, IIRC) to look for something that was lost--because everyone knows that everything that gets lost ends up on the Moon. While there, on the great heap of lost things, he discovers some guy's wits.

</derail>
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Old 23rd July 2009, 02:28 PM   #14
JoeTheJuggler
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Originally Posted by MG1962 View Post
If you look at the difference in terrain between the far and near sides of the Moon you can see the impact tidal forces had on the Moons vulcanism. The near side seems to be dominated by maria - lava flows. Were as the far side only has one or two small outlfow
Either that or the great big impact crater on the far side erased the maria. (I'm not sure when in the timeline that big impact happened, before or after the lava flows that formed the maria.)
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Old 23rd July 2009, 02:50 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by JoeTheJuggler View Post
Either that or the great big impact crater on the far side erased the maria. (I'm not sure when in the timeline that big impact happened, before or after the lava flows that formed the maria.)
Or lots of small impacts erased the maria. Since it became tidelocked, the vast majority of the impacts have necessarily been on the far side.
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Old 23rd July 2009, 08:08 PM   #16
Myriad
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Originally Posted by MG1962 View Post
If you look at the difference in terrain between the far and near sides of the Moon you can see the impact tidal forces had on the Moons vulcanism. The near side seems to be dominated by maria - lava flows. Were as the far side only has one or two small outlfow

Interesting. I'd have never thought of making that connection.

From the responses, though, it appears that hypothesis is in some doubt. A lot would depend on how long the moon's rotation has been phase locked with its earth orbit. Also, isn't there an equal tidal effect on the opposite (far) side of an orbiting body?

It also appears, now that I've checked several sources, that there is not general agreement on whether the moon's innermost core is molten, semi-molten, or solidified. (I learned "solid all the way through" in school, but that was at a time when some of the textbooks still covered the "made of cheese" theory so it doesn't mean much.)

Sounds like we need more lunar space missions! And this time, bring an atomic powered mole machine.

Respectfully,
Myriad
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Old 24th July 2009, 11:00 AM   #17
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My naive expectation is that since the Moon became tidally locked with respect to Earth, any infalling objects headed for the nearside would be likely to hit Earth, so I'd expect more cratering on farside, even if it happened to be 100% Maria to start.

An actual physicist or astronomer will explain why this is extremely silly in 3...2...
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Old 24th July 2009, 02:05 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by bokonon View Post
Since it became tidelocked, the vast majority of the impacts have necessarily been on the far side.
I've heard that before, but I don't understand it. If I think of the Earth and Moon floating in space, and a chunk of material heads into that system at high speed (the Moon's speed around the Earth is small in comparison to the speed of meteors), it would seem like the side that faces the Earth would be slightly less likely to get hit, because a small portion of meteors heading towards the Moon would hit the Earth first. But that's a small area - if you're standing on the near side of the Moon, the Earth only blocks about 0.1% of your view of space, so it seems like 99.9% of the meteors heading towards you would hit you, while only 0.1% would hit the Earth.

So why is the far side of the Moon so much more cratered?
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