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The Once and Future Moon

Once in a Blue Moon

10 Oct 2012, 15:17 UTC
Once in a Blue Moon
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

What color is the Moon? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.

"True" color (left) and "false" color (right) images of the near side of the Moon from Clementine. "Blue" units in Mare Tranquillitatis (right middle of false color image) are ilmenite-rich lavas.
The color of the Moon has been studied for years. Lunar color is a subtle, yet fascinating phenomenon. Just when it seemed that we had an explanation, complications would arise. We now think we have a reasonable explanation for it. So, why is the Moon gray? Or to ask the question “scientifically”— What factors account for the range of spectral reflectance seen on the Moon?
Early Apollo astronauts were very impressed with the Moon’s lack of color. During Apollo 8 (first mission to orbit the Moon in 1968) Jim Lovell remarked, “The Moon is basically gray – no color.” The Apollo 10 crew was struck by the numerous brownish hues exhibited by the Moon – from a bright tan to a dark, chocolate brown. When the first astronauts landed and walked on the Moon (Apollo 11), they had an even closer view. Buzz Aldrin mentioned that although the surface color was basically gray, he ...

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