May 1, 2008 Issue

Physics To Go 48 - Lunar dust

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Physics in Your World

Static Cling on the Moon image
Image credit: NASA/Apollo 17; image source; larger image

Static Cling on the Moon

This Astronomy Picture of the Day image shows a flap jury-rigged on the moon by astronauts of Apollo 17 to prevent the abrasive lunar dust from damaging the rover. To find out more, visit Lunar Dust and Duct Tape. To read about NASA's efforts to overcome this problem, see Lunar Dust Buster.

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Physics at Home

Introduction to Static Electricity

Security note:
Once you have clicked on the "simulation" link below, be sure to read the Java Security Advisory before running the simulation: To do that, click the "Read now" button on the yellow band near the top of the PhET page.To understand why moondust clings, visit the PhET simulation  Balloons and Static Electricity.  

For a related hands-on activity, with readily available materials, see Introduction to Static Electricity.


From Physics Research

Moon Fountains image
image credit: NASA; image source; larger image

Moon Fountains

The red dot in the center of the image is a speck of lunar dust, levitated by electric fields--for more on this experiment, see Mesmerized by Moondust. Dust particles on the moon are strongly charged by the ultraviolet light from the sun, and the resulting electrostatic forces levitate these particles well above the moon's surface, forming a lunar atmosphere of dust.  Check out Moon Fountains to learn more and to find out how the physics of this effect was anticipated in a science fiction book published in 1956.  

(This feature was updated on July 19, 2013.)

Worth a Look

Don’t Breathe the Moondust

Moon dust is a health hazard for astronauts--to learn about this problem, see Don't Breathe the Moondust.  Also, check out the BBC article Lunar Dust May Harm Astronauts.

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