Lunar Surface: Composition Inferred from Optical Properties

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Science  05 Jan 1968:
Vol. 159, Issue 3810, pp. 76-79
DOI: 10.1126/science.159.3810.76


The optical characteristics (intensity, polarization, spectrum, and albedo) of the moon surface are compared with those of rock and meteorite powders. The only materials whose optical properties match those of the lunar surface are basic rocks containing lattice iron but little or no free iron, and then only after irradiation of these rocks by a simulated solar wind. Optical properties of chondritic meteorite powders differ from those of the moon in significant respects. The lunar crust is probably not chondritic, but is similar in composition to terrestrial iron-rich basalts. These results are independent of those from the Surveyor V alpha-scattering experiment and, in addition, provide a basis for extrapolating the Surveyor V analysis to other areas of the moon. The Surveyor V experiment has thus confirmed the value of earth-based optical techniques for the study of the structure and composition of the surfaces of other planets.