After decades of speculation, NASA has finally confirmed that there is neon around the moon. Not a lot of neon, but neon nonetheless.
In a statement, NASA explained that the agency's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, spacecraft detected the gas in the moon's exosphere. "The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject of speculation since the Apollo missions, but no credible detections were made," NASA's Mehdi Benna said, adding: "We were very pleased to not only finally confirm its presence, but to show that it is relatively abundant."
The moon's thin atmosphere prevents it from glowing, however. NASA explains:
There's not enough neon to make the moon visibly glow because the moon's atmosphere is extremely tenuous, about 100 trillion times less dense than Earth's atmosphere at sea level. A dense atmosphere like Earth's is relatively rare in our solar system because an object has to be sufficiently massive to have enough gravity to hold onto it.
Also in the moon's exosphere are helium and argon, and their concentrations vary depending on the time of day. Neon, fittingly, is most prevalent at 4 a.m., moon time.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.