The moon’s a rusty rock

Moon in eclipse

It’s 2020, pretty much anything goes and there have been more than a few moments to raise the eyebrows in the past months. Here’s a new one though – and I doubt anyone saw it coming. The moon, it’s rusting.

Yup, you read that correctly the first time. The moon is rusting and researchers are scratching their heads trying to work it out. There are a theories about the phenomenon though.

First of all, space has no air (not exactly news, that) and the moon has no water (where there’s water, there’s life and I’m pretty sure the Man on the Moon is a myth). Still, thanks to the Indian Space Research Organisation we now know the moon has a layer of rust.

The ISRO Chandrayaan-1 orbiter actually did find water on the moon, back in 2008. There is ice at both of the moon’s poles but it is theorised that this ice from ancient times, not anything recent.

Since this is surface water, or ice, it is suggested that it could well make a moon base a real option – or provide provisions for extended space exploration. This is much easier than trying to extract the water beneath the moon’s surface – wait, the moon doesn’t have any water on it, we all know that!

Back in 2009, the LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) system was set in motion to monitor a deliberate moon collision and collect the resulting data. This confirmed the presence of water beneath the moon’s surface back in 2009 – specifically below the Cabeus crater which is near the south pole.

Getting back to that rust issue, the Chandrayaan-1’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper noted that the areas near the moon’s poles were giving off rather different reflections than the rest of the surface. These reflections caused Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii to zoom in on the areas in question where he found evidence of hematite (also known as iron oxide or … rust).

Now a lack of oxygen and liquid water (as opposed to ice) makes the presence of rust a real conundrum. Every indication of the moon’s surface conditions should make it impossible for rust to exist.

Read the more in-depth article here on the NASA website, but the short version is that the earth’s magnetic field trails behind the planet a little (similar to a comet’s tail) and it seems that some level of oxygen hitches a ride on this tail. This is just a small piece of the puzzle which is actually formed of three parts. These are the highlights though, there are metal rocks on the moon, the earth’s atmosphere travels the 385,000 kilometres to the moon on the magnetotail and also blocks the solar winds to negate the hydrogen’s ability to suppress rust formation.

The result is that something exists which shouldn’t exist at all.

In terms of interesting YouTube channels, there are a number I quite enjoy. Few of them though are as enjoyable as Big Clive. He orders bright pink electrical things online and then takes them apart so we can all find out how they work. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s part of it. There’s all manner of electronic gadgetry that find their way across his desk and he does a complete breakdown of how it works and the components that make it work. Interesting stuff.

On a final note, if you like aeroplanes and the associated technology then you might enjoy spending some time at which will provide you with a list of airports around the world that have a live internet feed. You can listen in on air traffic control at those airports and monitor the movements in realtime.

Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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