To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
– William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
I actually came off my bike in the Valley of the Moon when I hit a patch of sand on the road, so my feelings about the stuff are somewhat ambivalent. However, HOWEVER, science has come to my aid yet again and opened my eyes.
Because under a microscope, sand is actually quite stunning!
Unfortunately I don’t think I can post the pics myself due to the copyright, but these links are worth clicking through.
Geology.com share a gallery of sand microscopy by Gary Greenberg, in promotion for his book. My favourite is the polished pieces of olivine, found on the green Lumahai Beach of Hawaii.
Gary has also photographed samples of moon sand, collected by Buzz Aldrin and Niel Armstrong. The otherworldly images are in his Moon Sand Gallery.
Without atmosphere or water, sand on the moon goes through a very different process to form. Rather than small sea shells and rocks polished by the oceans, the moon sports fine dust created by meteorite microimpacts. Some impacts are so hot they become molten microdroplets. When these collide with existing sand grains, they create wiggly shaped specks called agglutinates.