The moon may not have any air, but that doesn't mean it lacks atmosphere.
First results from NASA's ongoing Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, spacecraft show a permanent cloud of dust envelopes the moon.
"We do have an atmosphere. It's made out of the dust particles," Mihaly Horanyi, lead scientist for LADEE's Lunar Dust Experiment, said at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston this week.
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Scientists have been trying to detect sunlight glinting off dust since the 1969-1972 Apollo missions. LADEE, which flies low around the moon, takes a more direct approach. It can detect micrometer-sized dust particles as they smash into a specially designed instrument and vaporize.
Apparently that happens very often, roughly once or twice per minute, Horanyi said.
LADEE also has detected great bursts of dust, on the order of 300 particles per minute, which scientists believe are due to micrometeoroids hitting the moon and kicking up showers of dust.