The search for the cause of the low albedo of the Moon


  • T. Gold,

  • E. Bilson,

  • R. L. Baron


The effects of different weathering processes on the albedo of the lunar surface cover is discussed. The surface chemical composition of numerous lunar soil and pulverized rock samples was determined by auger electron spectroscopy. The optical albedo of these samples was also measured. The chemical concentration of iron and titanium is greater on the surface of soil samples than it is on the surface of crushed rock samples with similar bulk composition, whereas the albedo of soil samples is lower than that of the crushed rock samples. A correlation is presented between the surface iron + titanium content and the albedo. Results of solar wind simulation experiments show that irradiation of crushed lunar rock samples with a small dose (corresponding to 3000 years of solar wind) of 2-keV energy protons changed the surface chemistry of the rock to that of the soil. A much larger dose of protons (corresponding to 30,000 years of solar wind) was needed to darken crushed rock to the albedo of the soil of similar bulk chemical composition. The mechanism of darkening by solar wind is discussed, and its effectiveness is compared to that of other darkening processes.