PureInsight | January 2, 2001
Astronauts aboard the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s reported a weird glow on the horizon of the Moon, one that resembled something that might occur in Earth's atmosphere.
'This was unexpected since apart from a few rogue atoms evaporated out of the Moon's barren surface, our satellite doesn't have an atmosphere to speak of,' says Matthew Genge of the London Natural History Museum.
Moon clouds? Lunar aurora? The Man on the Moon with a lava lamp?
'The glow actually came from the reflection of sunlight from dust particles that lift up from the Moon's surface,' Genge says. 'It's a process known as electrostatic levitation.'
Sunlight gives an electrostatic charge to dust particles on the Moon, Genge explains, causing some to lift off the surface. While it might sound like something out of I Dream of Jeannie, it's real, and it's one of the weirdest things in space.
So weird, in fact, that some of this Moon dust actually ends up on Earth.