The moon’s history may not have been as simple as once supposed, according to one Stony Brook University geoscientist.
“So what we’re learning here is that the moon is a whole lot more complex than we…thought it was,” said Professor Timothy Glotch of the Geosciences department during a September 18 lecture. “Every time we send a new spacecraft to the moon or any other solar system body, we learn a lot more.”
Based on data retrieved from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) over the past year, Glotch and a team of scientists from NASA and other institutions discovered previously unidentified silica-rich rocks on the moon’s pale highlands. All minerals and the rocks they form absorb and emit energy with an identifiable, measurable spectral signature.
These silicates are significant because they indicate that the moon’s geologic past included large-scale lava-flows.
“These types of minerals are really important because they indicate extensive magmatic processes,” explained Glotch.
The LRO was equipped with other tools, including a camera to image the moon’s polar regions, which will permit mapping, and can also identify safe locales for future lunar landings.
After Glotch’s presentation, a number of audience members took to the roof of the Earth and Space Sciences Building to participate in the First International Observe the Moon Night. The event, hosted by the Geosciences and Astronomy departments, was part of the Lunar Consciousness Public Outreach team’s effort to get people around the world to focus their telescopes on the moon and look into current lunar research.
Celestial gazers observed the moon and Jupiter through a series of telescopes oriented by the Undergraduate Astronomy Club. Such viewing events are not out of the ordinary for the Astronomy department, which hosts Astronomy Open Night the first Friday of every month. These events typically feature a faculty lecture, followed by a telescope viewing of the night sky, weather permitting.
“It’s great,” said Shannon Hicks, a junior Astronomy and Physics double major and member of the Astronomy Club. “Especially for little kids. It’s a good way to show…why astronomy is important.” Students and locals, young and old, migrated from telescope to telescope for different lunar views and clear sights of Jupiter and its moons aligned.
Michael Livingston, 9, enthusiastically hoped to see Pluto. His brother, Tom, a Stony Brook Geosciences major, said there was a value in programs like this one.
“It gives you a deeper look at what faculty are doing,” said Tom.
Professor Dan Davis of the Geosciences department helped with the telescope setup. This night, in particular, allowed these amateur astronomers the opportunity to see the sky relatively clearly because the stadium’s lights were off.
He said that events like this make what is being done at Stony Brook tangible.
Davis explained, “It’s important that people do what they don’t normally do—look up.”