Discovery of Vapor Deposits in the Lunar Regolith

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  03 Sep 1993:
Vol. 261, Issue 5126, pp. 1305-1307
DOI: 10.1126/science.261.5126.1305


Lunar soils contain micrometer-sized mineral grains surrounded by thin amorphous rims. Similar features have been produced by exposure of pristine grains to a simulated solar wind, leading to the widespread belief that the amorphous rims result from radiation damage. Electron microscopy studies show, however, that the amorphous rims are compositionally distinct from their hosts and consist largely of vapor-deposited material generated by micrometeorite impacts into the lunar regolith. Vapor deposits slow the lunar erosion rate by solar wind sputtering, influence the optical properties of the lunar regolith, and may account for the presence of sodium and potassium in the lunar atmosphere.