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Moon and Antares

August 14, 2013

The desert of Oman is almost like the surface of another world. There’s little but heat and sand, with no rain, no rivers, and no trees. In fact, this other-worldly location is a good place to find pieces of another world: the Moon. Over the last two decades, rockhounds have found about 60 fragments of moonrocks scattered over the Oman desert.

Collage of lunar meteoritesCollage of lunar meteoritesPieces of the Moon arrive on Earth after being blasted into space when big asteroids hit the lunar surface. The impacts are so powerful that they can shoot small chunks of the lunar crust out into space. Some of these pieces reach Earth in just a few days, while others can orbit the Sun for millions of years before plunging into Earth’s atmosphere.

Scientists didn’t realize that a few of the meteorites on Earth actually came from the Moon until the 1980s. They discovered that the composition and structure of a few meteorites matched those of the lunar rocks picked up by Apollo astronauts.

All of the lunar meteorites identified so far have been found in Antarctica or the deserts of Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. There’s no special attraction to these locations. But there are few Earth rocks in these spots, so there’s a decent chance that any rock sitting atop the ice or sand is a meteorite — including a few that are pieces of the Moon.

The Moon is low in the south-southwest as night falls this evening. The bright orange star Antares, the heart of Scorpius, stands close to its lower left.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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