After 4 Decades, Physicist Solves Mystery of Moon Dust

After decades of wondering, Aussie explains its stickiness
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2009 8:26 AM CDT
After 4 Decades, Physicist Solves Mystery of Moon Dust
In this July 20, 1969 file photo, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the US flag on the lunar surface.    (AP Photo/NASA, File)

Moon dust has been a “bloody nuisance” to NASA for decades, says a physicist: it sticks to spacesuits, clogs instruments, and could be a health risk for future colonists. Scientists believe the stickiness is due to a positive charge from the sun’s rays, NASA says. Now the physicist, 75 and retired, thinks he’s figured out the key to its behavior: the angle of the sun, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The angle of the sun as it hits the moon determines how sticky the stuff will be, Brian O’Brien says. The Earth's atmosphere prevents such trouble here. This information could be a big help to NASA, which wants to visit the moon again by 2020. O’Brien has been intrigued by moon dust since 1970, when he faulted it for messing with instruments Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left on the moon.
(More moon stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.