There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff – we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.
If everyone who saw this today donated $5, we would meet our goal for 2021.
| Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.|
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with !
| The divine comedy|
An embarassingly common creationist argument is that there's not enough dust on the moon for an old universe. It also has a place among proponents of the Moon landing hoax.
“”The minimal quantify [ ] of dust on the moon was once used by young earth creationist [ ] as supporting evidence for a young moon. It was argued that based on current measurements of cosmic dust and its estimated rate of accumulation, the moon must be very young. It was also said that before the moon landings, there was considerable fear that astronauts would sink in the dust. The first recorded use of the argument was by Harold Slusher in an article published by the Creation Research Society in 1971. Henry Morris likewise published the moon dust assertion in his book Scientific Creationism in 1974. However, most creationists now recognize the argument to be outdate [ ] and advice [ ] against it [ ] use.
“”For years, a common and apparently valid argument for a recent creation was to use uniformitarian assumptions to argue that the amount of dust on the moon was less than 10,000 years’ worth. [....] The moon-dust argument was easy to understand and explain. Nevertheless, as we have indicated before, creationists as well as evolutionists need to be prepared to re-examine arguments as new and better data emerges.
It thus appears that the amount of meteoritic dust and meteorite debris in the lunar regolith and surface dust layer, even taking into account the postulated early intense meteorite and meteoritic dust bombardment, does not contradict the evolutionists’ multi-billion year timescale (while not proving it). Unfortunately, attempted counter-responses by creationists have so far failed because of spurious arguments or faulty calculations. Thus, until new evidence is forthcoming, creationists should not continue to use the dust on the moon as evidence against an old age for the moon and the solar system. [....] Calculations show that the amount of meteoritic dust in the surface dust layer, and that which trace element analyses have shown to be in the regolith, is consistent with the current meteoritic dust influx rate operating over the evolutionists’ timescale. While there are some unresolved problems with the evolutionists’ case, the moon dust argument, using uniformitarian assumptions to argue against an old age for the moon and the solar system, should for the present not be used by creationists.
Thus, even 27 years ago, this argument was proven to be false by creationists themselves. Yet creationists still make it today!
The best measurements [of dust influx] have been made by Hans Pettersson, who obtained the figure of 14 million tons per year. [....] Based on measured rates of planetary dust accumulation, there is too little moon dust for an old moon. Before the moon landings, there was considerable fear that astronauts would sink in the dust.
Given the rate at which cosmic dust accumulates, 4.5 billion years would have produced a layer on the moon much deeper than observed. By implication, the earth is also young.
Ultraviolet light changes moon rocks into dust. It had long been predicted that a thick layer of dust (20-60 miles [32-96.5 km], caused by ultraviolet radiation on the moon's 4-billion-year-old surface, must cover the moon's surface. But scientists were astonished to learn that there is not over 2-3 inches [5.08-7.62 cm] of dust—just the amount expected if the moon were only a few thousand years old.
These claims are wrong.
It should be noted that the number for dust accumulation (either called 15, 14.3, or 14 million tons per year on Earth) is the maximum estimate by Hans Pettersson; his more realistic estimate was 5 million tons, and he warned readers that the real rate may be far lower. The improper citation suggests a lack of honesty from creationists. Most importantly, Pettersson's research was done in 1960 (60 years ago yet cited today), with very basic techniques (standing on two mountaintops and collecting dust with a device intended for measuring smog levels), and has been superceded by more recent research.
More recent studies put the figure at between a minimum of 1.6 x 10^9 grams/year (1763 short tons/year[Calculations 1]) and a maximum of 1.7 x 10^11 grams/year (187,392 short tons/year[Calculations 2]), both of which are orders of magnitude less than creationists' figures from Pettersson. Even at this maximum value, and even assuming that Earth is perfectly flat, and even assuming that the dust would not compress at all, only 66.18 cm (0.6618 m, 2.171 ft) of dust would have accumulated after 4.5 billion years. This is vastly outpaced by erosion and other factors, which would easily swallow this minute change.
There is no reason why the influx density should be any greater on the moon (and, indeed, one would expect it to be less (about 75% so), as the Moon has less gravity to attract dust).
The surface of the moon is also often hit by larger meteorites and asteroids which turns over the regolith layer (a loose layer of heterogeneous rocks and grains which is several meters thick and covers the surface of the moon) and mixes the dust into it.
This claim also fails to take into account the phenomenon of vacuum cementing, in which small objects in a hard vacuum (such as dust on the surface of the Moon) naturally solidify. This effect was reported to be a problem with the first American and Soviet satellites, as small moving parts would seize together.
Moon landing story
The story that scientists worried about astronauts sinking in moon dust is a total fabrication. As Don Lindsay reports:
1960 was also the year of President Kennedy's promise to put a man on the moon. NASA got a lot of money, and started up a lot of committees. One of the committees pointed out that they should make a measurement IN SPACE of space dust. This was done, and McCracken and Dublin announced (at the 1963 Lunar Surface Layer conference) that the earth gets a piddling 18,000 to 25,000 tons per year. At the 1965 conference, the photographs taken by the Ranger probe were shown, and it was agreed that the moon didn't look dusty. In May 1966, Surveyor I landed on the moon, and the issue was settled. The engineers designing the Lunar Lander were told to give it short legs. A landing spot was chosen in the rocky uplands, just in case lowlands and valleys had pools of dust. [....] NASA and the USSR have not ignored this technical issue in the decades since landing on the moon. It is, after all, relevant to the health of satellites and space stations. (In 1998, more than 600 satellites were orbiting the Earth.) There have been theoretical calculations. There have been measurements done by shining lasers into space. There have been measurements based on the chemistry of deep sea sediments. And NASA put up a satellite, the Long Duration Exposure Facility, LDEF. It went up in 1984, and they retrieved it in 1990 to study the amount of damage from years of tiny impacts. LDEF gave us a figure of 40,000 tons per year [about 110 tons/day] - a long way from millions.
The lunar surface layer thus formed would, therefore, consist of a mixture of lunar material and interplanetary material (primarily of cometary origin) from 10 cm to 1 m thick. The low value for the accretion rate for the small particles is not adequate to produce large scale dust erosion or to form deep layers of dust on the moon, for the flux has probably remained fairly constant during the past several billion years.
- Rotation of the Earth (the Earth's spin is running down too fast)
- Lunar recession (the moon is going away from the Earth too fast)
- Lunar formation (the moon couldn't have formed)
- Lunar radioactivity (the moon is too hot)
- Lunar atmosphere (there's too much moon gas)
- Lunar transient phenomena (the moon is too active)
- Lunar bukkake hypothesis (the moon got shot with water during the Flood)
- See the Wikipedia article on Lunar soil.
- Moon-dust argument no longer useful (2013 video from CMI, debunks moon dust argument)
- A dusty old YEC argument backfires (part 1)
- An excellent and thorough analysis of the creationist literature on the issue from Morris to Hovind
- Not Enough Dust on the Earth or Moon Prove the Earth is Young, OEC
- Is the Earth Young? by Tim Thompson, taken from a list on CARM.org
- Where is the Moon Dust?, 2009 video from Creation Moments
- Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Master Books, Arkansas, p. 152.
- This is entirely untrue. While Photon Stimulated Disorption might explain where Lunar gas goes, it doesn't just break up rocks -- on the moon any more than on Earth!
- Pettersson, H., 1960. Cosmic spherules and meteoric dust. Scientific American, 202(2):123-132.
- The Implications of the Ranger Moon Pictures (Page 4 references lunar dust vacuum welding)
- Lunar Rated Fasteners (Page 3 specifies how to build components resistant to vacuum welding)
- Shore, Steven N. 1984. "Footprints in the Dust: The Lunar Surface and Creationism" Creation/Evolution, Issue XIV (Fall), pp.32-35 National Center for Science Education, P.O. Box 9477, Berkeley, CA 94709-0477