September 26, 2010
Atlas of Treasure
Lunar thin-section image by Lunar and Planetary Institute/NASA
The Lunar and Planetary Institute has recently this month put online over 5000 new images of the lunar rock samples from the data packs of information held on each Moon rock brought back by the Apollo astronauts and stored at the Lunar Curatorial Laboratory in Houston, Texas. The Lunar Sample Atlas contains thin-section images, mugshots of the rocks and diagrams on how the samples were cut up for distribution. It is a treasure trove of beautiful images, such as the one above of a mare basalt 70135 collected on Apollo 17. The thin section shown is made from a 0.03 mm section of rock with crossed polarized light giving interference patterns which give the beautiful colors which enable mineral identification. By studying the minerals and the order in which they crystalized, the cooling history of the rock can be worked out. This with age dating and the context of where the sample was collected, can unlock the geologic history of that region of the Moon. Stratigraphic geology and petrology are considered separate fields, but the infomation gained by one can help the other in better understanding of lunar history and origin.
If you would like to see what a lunar sample thin-section looks like through a microscope, the Open University has a Virtual lunar petrographic microscope where you can manipulate a thin section under the microscope yourself.
70,135 in lab after return from the Moon.
Mission: Apollo 17 - Taurus-Littrow
Photo Number: JSC01439
Lithology: high-Ti mare basalt
Image Type: polarized light microscope image
Thin Section Type: standard thin section
Field of View: 2.85 mm
Astromaterials Curation JSC
Lunar Sample Atlas
Rükl plate 25
Image: Taurus-Littrow Valley, the collecting site for the 70135 sample. WAC by Rick Evans
Yesterday's LPOD: Tycho And Tektites
Tomorrow's LPOD: In the Thick of It