Brownian modulated optical nanoprobes (Brownian MOONs) are fluorescent micro- and nanoparticles that resemble moons: one hemisphere emits a bright fluorescent signal, while an opaque metal darkens the other hemisphere. Brownian motion causes the particles to tumble and blink erratically as they rotate literally through the phases of the moon. The fluctuating probe signals are separated from optical and electronic backgrounds using principal components analysis or images analysis. Brownian MOONs enable microrheological measurements on size scales and timescales that are difficult to study with other methods. Local chemical concentrations can be measured simultaneously, using spectral characteristics of indicator dyes embedded within the MOONs. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.