@ Least that's probably what Glenn told his wife, anyhow.
"Pixie Dust"... that's what they called it.
When the astronauts brought their samples home, the geologists in Houston discovered even more. The soil was unusually chemically reactive -- not something that was expected from a scrap of a world that was supposed to be largely inert. And it did a lousy job of conducting heat. The surface of the moon on the sunlit side might be close to the boiling point of water, but just a few feet down it would be far below freezing.
For 40 years, geologists struggled to understand just what gave lunar soil these pixie dust properties, but geologist Marek Zbik of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia may finally have cracked it. The answer: nanoparticles -- vanishingly tiny flecks of mass, some no bigger than molecules, that have all the odd qualities of moon dust, and more.
An international team of researchers has discovered alien-looking nanoparticles inside bubbles of glass in lunar soil.
TXM tomography reconstruction anaglyph shows highly porous cellular structure encapsulated within vesicular void in glassy fragment of the lunar breccias (image credit: Marek Zbik et al)
Dr Zbik took the lunar soil samples to Taiwan where he could study the glass bubbles without breaking them using a new technique for studying nano materials call synchrotron-based nano tomography to look at the particles. Nano tomography is a transmission X-ray microscope which enables 3D images of nano particles to be made.
"We were really surprised at what we found," Dr Zbik said.
"Instead of gas or vapour inside the bubbles, which we would expect to find in such bubbles on Earth, the lunar glass bubbles were filled with a highly porous network of alien-looking glassy particles that span the bubbles' interior.
"It appears that the nano particles are formed inside bubbles of molten rocks when meteorites hit the lunar surface. Then they are released when the glass bubbles are pulverised by the consequent bombardment of meteorites on the moon's surface.
"This continuous pulverising of rocks on the lunar surface and constant mixing develop a type of soil which is unknown on Earth."