The moon is turning ever so slightly red, and it’s likely Earth’s fault. Our planet’s atmosphere may be causing the moon to rust, new research finds.
Rust, also known as an iron oxide, is a reddish compound that forms when iron is exposed to water and oxygen. Rust is the result of a common chemical reaction for nails, gates, the Grand Canyon’s red rocks — and even Mars. The Red Planet is nicknamed after its reddish hue that comes from the rust it acquired long ago when iron on its surface combined with oxygen and water, according to a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
But not all celestial environments are optimal for rusting, especially our dry, atmosphere-free moon. “It’s very puzzling,” study lead author Shuai Li, an assistant researcher at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa’s Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, said in the statement. “The Moon is a terrible environment for [rust] to form in.”