When you look at photos from the Apollo missions, it is hard not to feel proud and in awe of what these men accomplished. When University of Oxford geologist Claire Nichols looks back on them though she feels frustration because there were so many tantalizing rocks just out of frame!
For a geologist studying the Earth’s and Moon’s now-defunct magnetic fields, such rock formations could be an unprecedented opportunity to document just what type of ever changing magnetism this universe has seen. They offer an exciting glimpse into how the moon’s magnetic field behaved before it mysteriously switched off around 900 million years ago!
It is quite possible that some of the Moon rocks brought back by Apollo crews were ejected from their origins by meteor impacts. If this was a common occurrence, then it would mean there are no direct clues about what direction its magnetic particles originated in when they cooled billions of years ago. However – without knowing how these objects originally oriented themselves as lava flows formed them hundreds or thousands upon millions more years later- you cannot rule out any secrets hidden within those cosmic grains!
In a new paper published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, Nichols and her study co-authors detail how they were able to combine two fortuitous Apollo era samples with newer NASA imaging of moon surfaces using an expert who was there: astronaut Harrison Schmitt.
The scientists used data from his time on Earth’s natural satellite for their research into ancient lunar crustal movements as well as future plans about human exploration beyond low orbit or surface missions like those conducted thus far by humans ̶ including Mars colonies he believes could be reality.
The team gained new insights into how the magnetic field of a moon affects space weather. They found that it may have looked very similar to Earth’s, just on a smaller scale!
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