Skip to main content

Man in the Moon Has 'Graphite Whiskers'

Man in the Moon Has 'Graphite Whiskers'

ScienceDaily — In a new analysis of a lunar sample collected by Apollo 17, researchers have detected and dated carbon on the moon in the form of graphite -- the sooty stuff of pencil lead -- which survived from around 3.8 billion years ago, when the moon was heavily bombarded by meteorites. Up to now, scientists thought the trace amounts of carbon previously detected on the surface of the moon came from the solar wind.
Some of the graphite revealed by the new study appeared in a rare rolled form known as "graphite whiskers," which scientists believe formed in the very high-temperature reactions initiated by a meteorite impact. The discovery also means that the moon potentially holds a record of the carbon input by meteors into the Earth-moon system when life was just beginning to emerge on Earth. The research is published in the July 2 issue of the journal Science.
"The solar system was chaotic, with countless colliding objects 3.9 billion years ago," explained lead author Andrew Steele, based at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. "Volatiles -- compounds like water and elements like carbon -- were vaporized under that heat and shock. These materials were critical to the creation of life on Earth."
"Materials that fell on the early Earth fell on the moon as well, because the two bodies basically share the same gravity well," said Marc Fries, a planetary scientist who conducted the research while working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and is now based at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz. "This sample is like a pristine page from Earth's past, before plate tectonics and other forces erased the history of this ancient carbon material on Earth."
While the sample from the Mare Serenitatis area came back to Earth in 1972, the research team, led by scientists at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, used a new technique known as Raman spectroscopy on the sample. Previous techniques enabled scientists to get a sense of the composition, but this kind of spectroscopy is more sensitive and also allows scientists to create an image of the minerals. The graphite whiskers appeared to be a few micrometers in diameter and up to about 10 microns long.
Scientists were surprised at the finding of graphite and graphite whiskers.

"It shows that modern spatially resolved techniques could be used to discover further surprises in the now 40-year-old Apollo collection," said co-author Mihaela Glamoclija, based at the Carnegie Institution.

The scientists ruled out the possibility that the graphite was a result of contamination, because graphite whiskers, in particular, form under very hot conditions, between 1,830 and 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,273 to 3,900 Kelvin). They also ruled out the solar wind as the source, because the graphite and graphite whiskers were much larger than carbon implanted by the solar wind, and while contamination occurred throughout the sample, the graphite was restricted to a discrete blackened area of the sample.
"We believe that the carbon we detected either came from the object that made the impact basin, or it condensed from the carbon-rich gas that was released during impact," said co-author Francis McCubbin, of the Carnegie Institution.
The research was partly funded by the NASA Astrobiology, Mars Fundamental Research, and the Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research programs in NASA's Planetary Division in Washington. The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.


Popular posts from this blog

Top 5 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010

Katie Stanton, International Strategist for Twitter Katie Stanton has impressively long names of companies in her resume. They include the White House, Google Inc, and her latest addition is Twitter. Her remit is working on Twitter’s international strategy and her experience in social media will be a key asset to the company. Katie has a history of working in technology, and her knowledge of departmental laws will help Twitter work alongside government agencies, as she’ll be spearheading the free information approach, especially after the Wikileaks incident. Stanton has been a key player in the techsphere for some time, and this extends to her private life. Following the Haiti disaster she worked with a group of engineers to create a free texting service to help those in need and she is constantly in demand as an expert in both social media and government policy.
Caterina Fake, Co-Founder of Flickr and Hunch Despite having a surname which sounds like a pseudonym for a spy (it’…

AT&T MiFi 2372 review

In the week or so that I have been testing the AT&T MiFi 2372 by Novatel Wireless, it has already saved no less than three lives. First, it saved my cable guy’s life. You see, Time Warner Cable provides the worst home Internet service I have ever experienced. I can’t even think of a close second. If providing terrible home Internet service was a sport, Time Warner Cable would be on its tenth consecutive undefeated season. Forget the fact that my upload speed is capped at 60Kbps and I’m lucky if I can get half that — it has been months since I’ve gone through a full day without at least one service interruption. Months. Unfortunately, Time Warner Cable has an exclusive contract with my building so I have no choice but to endure its abysmal service. Last week, as a Time Warner Cable technician entered my home for the sixth time in two months, I realized that this certainly would have spelled serious trouble had it not been for my trusty new back up device. Before the Mi…

Evolution Of Computer Virus [infographic]