Rock Degradation by Alkali Metals: A Possible Lunar Erosion Mechanism

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Science  06 Aug 1965:
Vol. 149, Issue 3684, pp. 630-632
DOI: 10.1126/science.149.3684.630


When rocks melt under ultrahigh-vacuum conditions, their alkali components volatilize as metals. These metal vapors act to comminute polycrystalline rocks to their component minerals. The resultant powder is porous and loosely packed and its characteristics may be compatible with the lunar surface as revealed by the Ranger photographs. If meteorite impact or lunar volcanism has produced vaporization or areas of molten lava, alkali erosion may have given dust of this character in adjacent solid areas.