Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Technicolor Moon Rocks

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Moon rocks like you've never seen them before! We generally tend to think of the moon in... oh, about 50,000 shades of grey, as it were.

However, samples returned to Earth are just full of secrets at many levels. BEHOLD! The microscopic colors of Luna Selene...

Apollo 12 basalt thin section

These amazing images are the work of Stuart Forbes, taken when he was a geology student at Edinburgh University in 1999, in preparation for an exhibition at a public observatory to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Thanks to a loan scheme with NASA and PPARC (Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council), Stuart obtained access to a pack of lunar material, containing a lucite disk of six whole moon rocks and twelve "thin sections" -- slices of rock cut so thin (30 microns) that light is able to pass through them.

Apollo 15 Regolith thin sections

Because of the optical properties of minerals, two polaroid filters, one above and one below, produce an interference pattern that results in the lovely colors; interpreting them is one of the core skills learned by geology students.

A year later, Apollo 16 astronaut John Young was scheduled for a lecture, whereby Stuart asked the hosting museum if they would like the exhibition re-created. THIS time, when they got their hands on the moon rocks, he had special equipment prepared to photograph them!

Apollo 17 gabbro thin section

Stuart even had the pleasure of escorting Astronaut Young through the exhibition, and such was his exciting turn-of-the-century brush with planetary geology. These samples are available to borrow for schools, universities and museums in the USA & UK, so other educators should definitely feel encouraged to do wat Stuart did, if you are affiliated with spaces that hold science exhibits of any kind.

John Young's Thank-You Gift to the photographer!

Click on any of the pictures in this post to see the entire lunar gallery by Stuart Forbes, where you can see other examples of basalt, regolith, breccias, soilin, anorthositein and gabbro… and thank you, Stuart, for generously sharing these beautiful photographs with everyone!

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