Evidence of solar-driven change found on moon- All you need to know

Asteroid impacts and solar radiation affects the moon in unique ways as it lacks the protective magnetic field and the atmosphere that protect us here on the Earth.

Created On: Aug 23, 2021 15:11 IST
Solar driven change on moon
Solar driven change on moon

Tiny iron-nanoparticles unlike any found naturally on the Earth have been found nearly everywhere on the moon. A new study led by the scientists at Northern Arizona University has uncovered significant clues to help understand the surprisingly active lunar surface.

In an article published in Geophysical Research Letters, the doctoral candidate of Northern Arizona University, Christian J. Tai Udovicic in collaboration with the associate professor Christopher Edwards, both of NAU’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science found that solar radiation can be a more significant source of lunar iron nanoparticles than previously thought.

Formation of iron nanoparticles on moon:

Asteroid impacts and solar radiation affects the moon in unique ways as it lacks the protective magnetic field and the atmosphere that protect us here on the Earth.

Both the asteroids and solar radiation break down the lunar rocks and soil, forming iron nanoparticles that are detectable from the instruments on satellites orbiting the moon.

The data from NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spacecraft was used to understand how quickly the iron nanoparticles form on the moon over time. As per Tai Udovicic, it was thought for a long time that solar wind has a small effect on lunar surface evolution, when in fact it may be the most significant process producing iron nanoparticles.

Solar radiation influence on moon:

Since iron absorbs a lot of light, very small amounts of these particles can be detected from very far away which makes them a great indicator of change on the moon.

Surprisingly, the smaller iron nanoparticles seemed to form at a similar rate as radiation damage in the samples returned from the Apollo Missions to the Moon which is a hint that the Sun has a strong influence in their formation.

Tai Udovicic said that when he saw the Apollo sample data and their own satellite data from side to side for the first time, he was shocked. The study shows that solar radiation can have a much larger influence inactive change on the Moon than previously thought, not only for darkening its surface, but it might also create small quantities of water usable in future missions.

Significance of understanding solar radiation environment:

As NASA prepares to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024 as part of the Artemis Mission, understanding the solar radiation environment and the possible resources on the moon has become critical.

In future work, Tai Udovicic plans on broadening his targeted study to the entire moon but is also eager to take a look at mysterious lunar swirls. He will also study lunar temperature and the water ice stability to inform future missions.

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