Measuring the Moon’s Nano Dust Is No Small Matter

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Colorized Moon Dust

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Colorized screenshots of the specific shapes of moon dust gathered throughout the Apollo 11 objective. NIST scientists and partners established an approach of determining these nanoscale particles as a start to studying their light-scattering homes. Credit: E. Garboczi/NIST and A. Sharits/AFRL

Like a chameleon of the night sky, the Moon typically alters its look. It may look bigger, brighter, or redder, for instance, due to its stages, its position in the planetary system, or smoke in Earth’s environment. (It is not made from green cheese, nevertheless.)

Another consider its look is the shapes and size of moon dust particles, the little rock grains that cover the moon’s surface area. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are now determining tinier moon dust particles than ever in the past, an action towards more specifically describing the Moon’s obvious color and brightness. This in turn may assist enhance tracking of weather condition patterns and other phenomena by satellite video cameras that utilize the Moon as a calibration source.

NIST scientists and partners have actually established a complex approach of determining the specific three-dimensional shape of 25 particles of moon dust gathered throughout the Apollo 11 objective in 1969. The group consists of scientists from the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Space Science Institute and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

These scientists have actually been studying moon dust for numerous years. But as explained in a brand-new journal paper, they now have X-ray nano calculated tomography (XCT), which enabled them to analyze the shape of particles as little as 400 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in length.

The research study group established an approach for both determining and computationally examining how the dust particle shapes spread light. Follow-up research studies will consist of much more particles, and more plainly connect their shape to light scattering. Researchers are specifically thinking about a function called “albedo,” moonspeak for just how much light or radiation it shows.


NIST scientists have actually been determining moon dust gathered throughout the Apollo objectives for numerous years. Materials researcher Ann Chiaramonti Debay discusses why.

The dish for determining the Moon’s nano dust is made complex. First you require to blend it with something, as if making an omelet, and after that turn it on a stick for hours like a rotisserie chicken. Straws and dressmakers’ pins are included too.

“The procedure is elaborate because it is hard to get a small particle by itself, but one needs to measure many particles for good statistics, since they are randomly distributed in size and shape,” NIST Fellow Ed Garboczi stated.

“Since they are so tiny and because they only come in powders, a single particle needs to be separated from all the others,” Garboczi continued. “They are too small to do that by hand, at least not in any quantity, so they must be carefully dispersed in a medium. The medium must also freeze their mechanical motion, in order to be able to get good XCT images. If there is any movement of the particles during the several hours of the XCT scan, then the images will be badly blurred and generally not usable. The final form of the sample must also be compatible with getting the X-ray source and camera close to the sample while it rotates, so a narrow, straight cylinder is best.”

The treatment included stirring the Apollo 11 product into epoxy, which was then leaked over the beyond a small straw to get a thin layer. Small pieces of this layer were then gotten rid of from the straw and installed on dressmakers’ pins, which were placed into the XCT instrument.

The XCT device created X-ray pictures of the samples that were rebuilded by software application into pieces. NIST software application stacked the pieces into a 3D image and after that transformed it into a format that categorized systems of volume, or voxels, as either inside or outside the particles. The 3D particle shapes were recognized computationally from these segmented images. The voxels comprising each particle were conserved in different files that were forwarded to software application for fixing electro-magnetic scattering issues in the noticeable to the infrared frequency variety.

The results showed that the color of light soaked up by a moon dust particle is extremely conscious its shape and can be considerably various from that of round or ellipsoidal particles of the very same size. That doesn’t imply excessive to the scientists — yet.

“This is our first look at the influence of actual shapes of lunar particles on light scattering and focuses on some fundamental particle properties,” co-author Jay Goguen of the Space Science Institute stated. “The models developed here form the basis of future calculations that could model observations of the spectrum, brightness and polarization of the moon’s surface and how those observed quantities change during the moon’s phases.”

The authors are now studying a larger series of moon dust sizes and shapes, consisting of particles gathered throughout the Apollo 14 objective in 1971. The moon dust samples were lent to NIST by NASA’s Curation and Analysis Planning Team for Extraterrestrial Materials program.

Reference: “Optical Scattering Characteristics of 3-D Lunar Regolith Particles Measured Using X-Ray Nano Computed Tomography” by Somen Baidya; Mikolas Melius; Ahmed M. Hassan; Andrew Sharits; Ann N. Chiaramonti; Thomas Lafarge; Jay D. Goguen and Edward J. Garboczi, 27 April 2021, IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters.
DOI: 10.1109/LGRS.2021.3073344



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