More Moon and Jupiter
Last year, a team of European scientists discovered that the Moon may be tens of millions of years younger than anyone had thought. They made the discovery by analyzing tiny bits of lunar rock and soil brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts. They used techniques that were more sophisticated than those available at the time of the Apollo missions to tease out some of the chemical history of the Moon's formation.
More than 35 years since the last astronauts left the Moon, their bounty of 842 pounds of rock, pebbles, and soil remains a priceless scientific treasure. Along with a few ounces collected by three Soviet probes, the samples have helped scientists learn how the Moon was born and how it's evolved. Those lessons have revealed much about the history of Earth, too.
About a quarter of the Apollo samples have been used for experiments or public displays. The rest remain inside nitrogen-filled chambers, awaiting new techniques and ideas.
Yet the samples provide a limited view of the Moon because they came from only a few locations. And despite careful handling, some have been contaminated by earthly materials. So scientists are awaiting new batches of samples from future lunar missions. The new rocks will help refine our understanding of the Moon -- and keep scientists busy for many more decades.
The Moon is full tonight. It's low in the southeast at nightfall, with the brilliant planet Jupiter a little to its upper right.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008 The Apollo Moon brightens the sky -- after this.
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