Why study the Moon?
The formation mechanisms of the Earth-Moon system hold consequences for the evolution of our inner solar system, habitable planets and how life began on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the universe.
Humanity will inevitably need to colonize new worlds to establish not only a new frontier for habitability but also bases for resource acquisition and processing as Earth-based technologies are tested in extraterrestrial environments.
Human evolution and life on Earth is inextricably tied the to the Moon’s evolution. From the effects of lunar gravity and tidal oscillations to the eventual tilt-and-rotational speed of the Earth that produced seasons, to a possible jump-start in biological evolution, lunar formation mechanisms shaped an Earth that holds a unique place in out solar system.
A heavily cratered lunar surface speaks to the preservation of a geologically ancient process – accelerated impact cratering. A spike in the cratering record occurred as early as ~4.2 billion years ago and may have lasted as long as 800 million years. As an airless body devoid of terrestrial-style plate tectonics, the Moon preserves a record of dynamic events that occurred shortly after its formation ~4.56 billion years ago until ~1 billion years ago when major volcanism is thought to have subsided. The dark patches are basalts (similar to ancient Archean basalts with slightly lower magnesium content) that are almost exclusively confined to the nearside.
Credit: NASA Goddard
What we know, what we don’t know, what we think we know…
With barely time to breath between the number of lunar research publications still being produced, interpretations can change drastically with new hypotheses.
Born in Pusan, South Korea, I arrived in the States at the age of two months. I spent most of my life in different regions of New York State and Northern Virginia and moved to the foothills of Colorado a few years ago for graduate studies in Geology. I love travelling to most places when tourists are minimal, and road trips are mandatory each year!
LEFT: the Very Large Array (VLA) near Magdelena, New Mexico. These radio telescopes are majestic and are the main players (in my humble opinion) in the 1997 Jodie Foster film “Contact”. RIGHT: The eastern Adirondack area in upstate NY. Colorado has some pretty mean mountains, but the lakes and rivers upstate are home.
LEFT: I’m sitting on part of an expansive basalt column exposure in the southern part of Iceland, in Vik. A black sand beach creates a solemn, melancholic yet gorgeous backdrop. RIGHT: A carved glacier to the north (Sólheimajökull). The weather in Iceland is similar to Denver (if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes…). The winds were so strong during my visit that the glacier walk was called off due to volcanic ash (think tiny glass shards) whipping about.
LEFT: I was fortunate to have spent a few months at the Carnegie Geophysical Lab as a predoctoral student researcher under Dr. Robert Hazen. There I assisted with a variety of experiments, including racemic sugar adsorption on mineral surfaces (origin of life research) and diamond anvil cell runs with paraformaldehyde to investigate carbon speciation. RIGHT: Thingvellir, Iceland, late October of 2011. The next Iceland trip will include and extensive sampling of basalts from the Laki region!
LEFT: Caving with George Mason University classmates in western Virginia. If you want to experience what complete darkness and silence is like, you need to try caving just once. Definitely not for the claustrophobic. RIGHT: George Mason University field camp stop in the Sipapu, New Mexico region. We had just completed a metamorphic mapping project in North Carolina that I was more than happy to leave (mapping blobs of homogeneous-looking metamorphic rock was soul-crushing).
LEFT: Great Sand Dunes National Park, adjacent to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado, 2016. Dune surfing is permitted here. The park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America at ~750 ft. tall from the base of the San Luis Valley floor. RIGHT: Home. Morrison, Colorado, 2019. View looking east out of the living room. I use the same window view with a small, table-top Orion 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope for Moon viewing.
George Mason University classmates, at the top of Old Rag mountain in Shenandoah National Park, VA. We’re sitting on approximatey 1 billion year old granite formed during the Grenville Orogeny.
Bandelier National Monument, adjacent to the Jemez Mountains. Ancient Puebloan dwellings carved in the Bandelier tuff. Los Alamos, New Mexico, 2016.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet,
balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations,
analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects.”
– Robert Anson Heinlein
I love what I do. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty that I undulge in something that most people don’t feel affects them directly, immediately.
But then I remember – I want to know how all of this got here, how we got here. It’s completely selfish. I’m ok with that.
Heinlein’s right, though. Geology isn’t everything, my PhD work isn’t everything to me. Learn another language, learn to play an instrument.
Read about evolutionary linguistics, music theory. Have a conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t.
Volunteer your time to something that matters to you.
Don’t be an insect.