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The Spill: The Rusty Moon Mystery

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The Mystery of the Rusty Moon

A lot of interest has been surrounding the moon lately: from elevators taking passengers to the moon to collecting moon dirt and finding rust on its surface, our satellite has certainly become the topic of many conversations and plans.

Scientists are currently baffled by what appears to be rust on the moon. Why is that so puzzling? Well, oxygen and water are needed to create the substance and those are two things lacking on the moon. Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a press release that it had “homed in on those polar spectra.” The moon does have iron-rich rocks, but the reddish color material they discovered closely resembled hematite, or rust which occurs only when iron is exposed to oxygen and water.

“It’s very puzzling,” said Shuai Li, a geologist at the University of Hawaii. “The moon is a terrible environment for hematite to form in.” However, the moon still has many secrets to uncover and in 2018 water-ice was discovered on the moon’s polar regions when it was thought the planet did not have any water at all.

Abigail Fraeman, a researcher for Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was surprised at the rust discovery. “At first, I totally didn’t believe it. It shouldn’t exist based on the conditions present on the moon. But since we discovered water on the moon, people have been speculating that there could be a greater variety of minerals than we realize if that water had reacted with rocks.”

There are several theories for how rust materialized on the moon, but the one most believed by the scientists is that the Earth has a large play in the formation. The surfaces of the moon that have the material are the ones that face our planet and scientists believe oxygen could be hitching a ride on Earth’s magnetotail to reach the moon’s surface. A magnetotail is a “particle-packed magnetic wake” that trails behind the Earth.

Meanwhile, NASA is continuing to work on making it possible for regular citizens to visit the moon. NASA has launched a new plan to collect moon dirt and pay private companies to do the dirty work for them. NASA wants to collect up to 18 ounces of the material and will pay $15,000 to $25,000 for the deliveries. The goal of the program is to establish a process for extracting and selling lunar resources.

639-Year Project

Do you like listening to music, going to concerts? How about being a part of one that lasts for 639 years? In honor of John Cage, a composer who believed there is music is silence and slowing down chords, the longest organ performance has been underway, slated to last for more than six centuries. The Organ2/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible) performance happens only once every seven years. At the changing of the chords, a new sound is set on the organ to last for 2,527 days. This year, musicians and past John Cage Award winners Johanna Vargas and Julian Lembke will install two new organ pipes to form a G sharp and an E. Sandbags will hold the pipes down so that the sound will continue.

The event draws thousands of people to the small church in Germany who want to observe the performance. Oct. 5, 2013 was the last time the notes were changed and drew about 1,500 people. This time, however, because of Coronavirus, the number of attendees will be limited and others can watch via an on-site video transmission.

So, how did the creators come up with 639 years? Why not an even number like 700? One of the team members knew of an old abandoned Romanesque church located in Halberstadt. The St. Buchardi church had been deconsecrated in 1810 and had been used as various things including a pigsty and a distillery. Some of the musicians were also aware of a very famous organ located in the city’s cathedral. Created by Nicolaus Faber in 1361, it was “perhaps the first one that had a keyboard like the one we know, separating the octave in 12 semi-tones,” said John Cage Foundation director Rainer O. Neugebauer. So, taking the year the organ was created and subtracting it from the year 2000, the new millennium, provide the number of years the performance is scheduled to run.

In 1985, Cage composed ASLSP and in 1987 he adapted the composition into an organ version. As Slow as Possible performances were meant to be played just like its title and sessions lasted between 20 to 70 minutes because Cage never specified exactly how slow the piece should be played. This composition is what inspired musicians to come together and honor Cage a few years after his death with the six century-long performance.

West Coast Wildfires

The West Coast seems to be on fire. Smoke hangs over California, Oregon, and Washington like a blanket, smothering the land and darkening the skies. This is one of the worst fire seasons on record and firefighters have been called from all across the nation, and even from different countries, to help combat the wildfires that have burned up more than five million acres, not to mention the loss of structures and animal and human lives.

For people living in these states, the challenge has been real. Flights have been delayed or canceled because the smoke is so thick it is not safe to fly. The air quality has been deemed hazardous to breathe and residents are encouraged to stay indoors, keep their windows and doors closed, and make sure pets are kept safe inside. During some of the hottest temperatures on record for this time of year, people have been told to not use their air conditioners because they will recycle the foul air from outside into homes. In fact, the West Coast has some of the most polluted air in the world. In the Golden State, all national and state parks have been closed due to raging fires and risk of campers and visitors sparking even more.

At least 27 people have already died due to the fires, and thousands have lost homes, properties, or businesses. In Northern California, more than 200 people had to be rescued after road access out of a popular mountain recreation area was cut off. Panicked vacationers were told to go to the water and stay in it until help could arrive. In Washington, a young family tried to go to their vacation home over the Labor Day holiday but got caught up in a raging fire and were forced to abandon their vehicle and search for water. Tragically, their one-year-old son did not survive and both parents were covered with burns over more than 50% of their bodies.

Climate control activists insist these wildfires are a direct result of climate change while others blame the lack of forest maintenance. There are a lot of areas with dead trees that serve as fuel and help to quickly spread the flames.


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