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Moon rock harvested by Apollo astronauts unveils secret of Moon's magnetism

It has been decades since man has walked on the moon. Scientists have made an important discovery about the moon recently using rocks recovered by astronauts from the Apollo missions of the 1970's.

One of the big questions that have stumped scientists since the early exploration of the moon is why lunar rocks are magnetic. Earth's magnetic field is produced by its rotating, iron core; something that the moon lacks.

Scientists at MIT believe they have finally solved the mystery. The scientists believe that about 4.2 billion years ago the moon had a liquid core that produced a strong magnetic field, similar to what the Earth has today.

Evidence of the molten core theory was found by analyzing the oldest of the moon rocks, which were not subjected to major shocks from impacts on the moon's surface. These later impacts erase all evidence of earlier magnetic fields.

The particular rock used by the researchers is one collected by astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt who is the only geologist to ever walk on the moon. Ben Weiss, one of the MIT researchers, told, "Many people think that it's the most interesting lunar rock."

Weiss and other team members used a commercial rock magnetometer fitted with a special robotic arm to study the faint traces of magnetism in the rock. The researcher say that the test results allowed them to rule out other possible sources of magnetic traces in the rock, such as the magnetic fields that are briefly generated by the impacts on the moon. The magnetic fields generated by these collisions reportedly generate mini magnetic fields lasting mere seconds up to a full day for very large impacts.

The readings the scientist made show that the rock was in the presence of a magnetic field for millions of years and that the magnetic fields must have come from a magnetic dynamo creating by a rotating core. The magnetic field on the moon is believed to have been about 1/50th of the magnetic field the earth has today. says that the findings fit into the theory that the moon was created when a Mars-sized body collided with the Earth, blasting much of its crust into space where it clumped together and formed the moon.

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By peebee on 1/16/2009 11:54:54 AM , Rating: 5
I don't have anything really useful to say other than I love astronomy. And that we really should fund NASA more.

RE: Interesting...
By dj LiTh on 1/16/2009 12:01:48 PM , Rating: 5
I definitely dont have anything useful to say, but here it is anyways...

It took them 40 years to figure this out?

RE: Interesting...
By Cobra Commander on 1/16/09, Rating: 0
RE: Interesting...
By Davelo on 1/16/2009 12:30:28 PM , Rating: 3
That's because we, the public, never hear about the really good stuff. We can't be bothered with it. We only need to do our jobs and pay our taxes.

RE: Interesting...
By dragonbif on 1/16/2009 12:32:26 PM , Rating: 3
You do know that most of the tech we use today stems from the space programe right? Such as a microwave oven, something we all use today and no MIB did not make it. They are always coming up and funding new tech especially in the communications department (cell phones). What they do today we may not benefit from for at least 5 years.

RE: Interesting...
By menace on 1/16/2009 4:49:16 PM , Rating: 4
You need to research your "facts".

The microwave oven was an accidental discovery from experiments with the magnetron used for radar in 1940's. An engineer noted that the chocolate bars in his pocket were melting. Raytheon patented the concept of the microwave in 1945 and in 1947 the first microwave oven, the Radarange was built for $5000. This preceded space exploration by 10 years or more. The microwave oven can be viewed as a technology that resulted from a world war not space exploration.

I don't think the argument that we would not have Technology X or Y if we did not have a space program holds much salt. While the space program did have influence on speed of technological development and a few exotic technologies that may not have otherwise yet come to pass, I have no doubt we would still have cell phones and PCs today regardless. Although they might be look like they did five or ten years ago.

RE: Interesting...
By dragonbif on 1/16/2009 7:50:03 PM , Rating: 5
There are 3 things that really push us to advance faster in technology; Space, War and Microsoft Windows Vista!

RE: Interesting...
By mindless1 on 1/17/2009 3:36:56 AM , Rating: 2
If there's any push to advance faster, versus the normal non-faster advances spurn by survival, profit, and power, it'd be competition.

Sad thing is, competition isn't necessarily of benefit when contrasted with collaboration. Make everyone reinvent the wheel and you waste a lot of time that could be put to better use.

RE: Interesting...
By Ratinator on 1/16/2009 1:24:12 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, because all major discoveries never have anything to do with the little discoveries which come before it.
/sarcasm off

You don't take large leaps without the baby steps first.

That is like the people that complain about not having a quantum based computer tomorrow when a new discovery is made in quantum physics. Seriously, this stuff is so bloody complicated you aren't going to get major solutions to problems over night. The complexity of this stuff is all relative......50 or 100 years from now it may be common everyday knowledge, but it isn't right now. The wheel was a major accomplishment at one point in history too, but they didn't have cars till a much later period.[/rant]

RE: Interesting...
By FITCamaro on 1/16/2009 2:23:40 PM , Rating: 4
Yeah its not like technologies such as plastic, vacuum packaging, transistors, and synthetic fibers have done the world much good.

Please get a f*cking clue.

RE: Interesting...
By Etsp on 1/16/2009 3:52:07 PM , Rating: 2
But don't forget about the pillows!

RE: Interesting...
By codeThug on 1/16/2009 6:41:39 PM , Rating: 3
or taking a dump in zero G

RE: Interesting...
By croc on 1/16/09, Rating: 0
RE: Interesting...
By mindless1 on 1/17/2009 3:51:48 AM , Rating: 2
You can't possibly believe we wouldn't have this tech now w/o any space program?

The precursors of this tech were there, some things are just inevitable and trying to assign cause to one group, or honor individuals' work, is just a sign of man's ego to think each individual is somehow extra-special.

We are like ants. If one person didn't discover something it would come sooner or later anyway because that one person had the benefit of all the ants that came before and shared their knowledge.

It's not the Space Program that matters, it's that we remember we need to allocate a certain % of our assets to research. It is important to make this distinction because we have to realize that at some point merely firing more rockets into space or analyzing microbes on Mars is a dead-end. We can funnel a lot of money into that, or funnel the money into what we really need, to solve the problems here on earth so that we have millions more healthy, educated minds working on such problems instead of only a few.

Our strength (as ants) is in numbers, not in how much we pay to a few thinking unlimited resources is the answer. Unlimited resources will come anyway if enough people come to the same conclusion - without the waste we already have, and with a better standard of living for all.

The only thing that makes this planet so desirable to leave is those who ruin it for the rest of us. We could escape into space and what good would it do if a new colony just perpetuated the same environment that some are so desperate to leave? If we just "want to know" that is an unreasonable position, just knowing without application is trivia, unfruitful. It has to have an end and we need to not only question that end but question why.

The space program is not trivial, it's funds should be slightly increased, but only if, and after, the budget has the pork trimmed out and other programs are given their suitable funding.

No matter how many trillions we might pour into the space program, we're not going to achieve great strides in space exploration as a result. See above what I wrote about ants, the ants at NASA may be quite clever but they too depend upon the advances made outside the space program.

RE: Interesting...
By MicahK on 1/17/2009 2:30:36 PM , Rating: 2
Okay... how about:

-Smoke detectors - now in every home, responsible for saving thousands of lives...
-Fire fighter equipment
-Cordless tools and appliances
-Water filters (like Brita, etc...)
-Worldwide communication, GPS, anything that involves a satellite
-Countless medical procedures, techniques, and technology...
-Polarized sunglasses and welding masks

I could go on, but the point is that there is useful technology that is a result of space research...

RE: Interesting...
By Chris Simmo on 1/16/2009 8:26:21 PM , Rating: 3
Much better idea funding billions into a war........?
Space has helped us to understand so much more then we thought we could comprehend. It has actually helped to makes us smarter and more productive, and to answer so many questions

RE: Interesting...
By MicahK on 1/17/2009 2:19:00 PM , Rating: 2
So basically if you lived lets say about 500 years ago, you'd be one of the people saying how useless it was for a voyage across the ocean. If the world was full of people like you, America would have never been discovered... Most great discoveries are made by accident, so if we never explore, what hope do we have of discovering?

RE: Interesting...
By sweetsauce on 1/16/2009 12:15:36 PM , Rating: 1
Here i'll save NASA the money needed to fund this research. Read the Enûma Elish, it details exactly how our solar system was formed.

RE: Interesting...
By foolsgambit11 on 1/16/2009 7:37:41 PM , Rating: 2
Okay. Because the solar system was formed 3500 years ago? I mean, it's not exactly an eye-witness account, is it? Please forgive science for requiring theories and models be based on evidence. Please forgive them for not noticing that the earth and the heavens aren't the two halves of Tiamat, ripped apart by Marduk.

nitpicking, i know. . .
By Fronzbot on 1/16/2009 1:11:04 PM , Rating: 5
. . . but
It has been decades since man has walked on the moon. Scientists have made an important discovery about the moon recently using rocks recovered by astronauts from the Apollo missions of the 1970's.

Terrible way to open an article.

Although it has been decades since man last stepped foot on the moon, scientists only recently have discovered important facts using the moon rocks recovered during the 1970s Apollo missions.
would be more suiting?
Not perfect, of course, but better.

RE: nitpicking, i know. . .
By L1011 on 1/16/2009 1:55:20 PM , Rating: 5
Don't get me wrong, I like DailyTech a lot, but I find myself skipping the first paragraph or two of almost every article on this site. Too often to get to the point of the headline, you have to start at the 2nd or 3rd paragraph. It's not just you, a lot of the opening paragraphs in DT articles aren't particularly good. Sorry, but it's true.

RE: nitpicking, i know. . .
By foolsgambit11 on 1/16/2009 7:45:46 PM , Rating: 2
It's not just DailyTech. Have you ever read USA Today? Only there, it's only the first two paragraphs that are worth reading, and the rest is obvious backstory that anybody who pays even a little attention to the world should know. That space should be used for in depth analysis, but instead it's a rehash of old facts.

For those of us who keep up a little with technological developments, the first two paragraphs tell us stuff that's obvious. But if somebody stumbled upon this site because they were interested in getting into tech news, the backstory at the top of articles can be helpful. And it's no hardship to skim it for the rest of us, is it?

RE: nitpicking, i know. . .
By cludinsk on 1/17/2009 12:49:48 AM , Rating: 2
the real question is, why would you read USA Today?

RE: nitpicking, i know. . .
By ggordonliddy on 1/16/2009 8:17:35 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct, sir.

Wow. . .
By JKflipflop98 on 1/16/2009 12:49:22 PM , Rating: 3
I find the lack of win in these comments to be. . . disturbing.

RE: Wow. . .
By quiksilvr on 1/16/2009 1:46:15 PM , Rating: 2
And you expect to change that with a comment like that?

RE: Wow. . .
By JKflipflop98 on 1/16/2009 9:04:55 PM , Rating: 2
Case in point.

Already known...
By RoberTx on 1/16/2009 1:07:09 PM , Rating: 2
In 1970 my older brother wrote a high school paper that said exactly what the researchers found. After reading this his ego swelled like a blue giant.

RE: Already known...
By omnicronx on 1/16/2009 1:49:41 PM , Rating: 2
That's because it could not be proven, scientists have hypothesized for a long time that at one time the moon had a liquid core. Both these articles should really read, 'Proof of Source of Moon's Magnetism Found', this is not the big news both these articles make it out to be.

RE: Already known...
By RoberTx on 1/17/2009 12:45:58 AM , Rating: 2
My brother was caught hypothesizing one time but he was real drunk and doesn't remember.

Better theory
By bighairycamel on 1/16/2009 2:26:24 PM , Rating: 2
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away...

Our moon used to be a space station, and the dust/rocks are still magnetized from the giant tractor-beam that was used.

RE: Better theory
By Motoman on 1/16/2009 3:14:54 PM , Rating: 2
...and here I thought that the moon was magnetic because the blue cheese had hereditary memory of the cow's alignment with magnetic north for migratory navigation.

RE: Better theory
By werepossum on 1/16/2009 9:55:49 PM , Rating: 2
by Motoman on January 16, 2009 at 3:14 PM
...and here I thought that the moon was magnetic because the blue cheese had hereditary memory of the cow's alignment with magnetic north for migratory navigation.

Yes, but now we know why the blue cheese had hereditary memory of the cow's alignment with magnetic north for migratory navigation.

important video about the moon
By Shadowmaster625 on 1/16/2009 1:11:53 PM , Rating: 2
RE: important video about the moon
By d0gb0y on 1/16/2009 1:48:43 PM , Rating: 2
By TheDoc9 on 1/16/2009 3:03:49 PM , Rating: 2
It's amazing how they can tell that a planetoid once had a molten core billions of years ago all based on a rock taken from the surface.

Even more profound, is how the moon had it's own molten core to begin with after it is said to have broken off from the earth.

RE: Interesting
By phazers on 1/16/2009 5:15:42 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I believe the current theory is that a Mars-sized planetary body impacted the Earth some 4.5+ billion years ago, in a glancing blow, so the Moon is the remnants of that collision, with much of the planetary body remaining as part of the Earth. The blow also sped up the infant Earth's rotation period to something like 6 hours per day.

If people had existed back then, Moonrise would have been a spectacular sight - huge, molten Moon rising 4 times as fast over the horizon.. Of course, the Earth was molten too so those people would have been toast pretty quickly :).

A couple things
By foolsgambit11 on 1/16/2009 8:02:58 PM , Rating: 2
Ben Weiss, one of the MIT researchers, told, "Many people think that it's the most interesting lunar rock."
Not that many, I'm sure. I doubt many people even have a favorite lunar rock - much less this one.

Anyway, I'm curious about how they did this experiment. Apparently they decided that the rock was exposed to a magnetic field 1/50th Earth's strength for millions of years, and that that magnetic field disappeared billions of years ago? Is that about right? How do they differentiate between that and, say, the rock being exposed to the Earth's magnetic field continuously - first on the surface of the moon, then for the past 38 years, on the surface of Earth?

RE: A couple things
By sld on 1/17/2009 9:57:09 AM , Rating: 2
They won't bother finding out if they need to differentiate, they need the space research funding.

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