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Moon and Antares

March 30, 2013

A prodigious chemical factory rises below the Moon late tonight: Antares, the leading light of Scorpius. The bright orange beacon is a supergiant - a type of star that will produce many different chemical elements during its lifetime, and many more during its violent demise.

Stars like Antares forged many of the elements that are found in the Moon, Earth, and the other bodies of the solar system. Scientists study those elements in meteorites and other objects to learn more about how the elements were created - and how they came together to form larger bodies.

That field of study is known as cosmochemistry. It was established in the 1960s as NASA built labs to examine the Apollo moon rocks. Many of those labs continue to look at the lunar samples even today, revealing more details about the Moon.

The labs also study samples brought back from an asteroid and a comet, as well as particles of the solar wind.

They also analyze meteorites - chunks of space rock that fall to Earth. Some meteorites have been traveling through space since the birth of the solar system. They contain tiny grains that were among the first solid objects to form around the Sun. Similar grains lumped together to make bigger objects - all the way up to planets.

Some of those grains contain elements forged in stars like Antares. The elements were blasted into space when the stars exploded - sprinkling the cosmos with the raw materials for worlds like our own.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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