A Japanese craft sniffs the moon's thin atmosphere and provides details that could help future human explorers.
By Larry O'Hanlon | Thu Jan 7, 2010 04:52 AM ET
A Japanese craft recently "sniffed" the atmosphere of the moon, which is so thin, it is referred to as an exosphere.
The moon's whiff of an atmosphere has been sniffed by a Japanese spacecraft under very special conditions and confirmed as coming largely from sunlight brutally hammering the lunar surface.
Using the very first direct measurements of the moon's "exosphere" as the moon passed through the streaming tail of Earth's protective magnetic field, researchers were able to watch the short-lived and ever-changing exosphere in the absence of the hot, magnetized solar wind.
What they found confirmed that it's really just powerful ultraviolet light knocking beat-up atoms, or ions, off the lunar surface and manufacturing the bulk of the weak lunar perfume.
This discovery is important for several reasons, explains NASA lunar scientist Menelaos Sarantos. One is that it could help interpret what kinds of minerals are on the moon's surface.
"What comes out [as exosphere] more or less tells you the mineralogy of the surface," Sarantos said.
The ions and how they change over time also provide direct evidence of how much of a beating the lunar surface is taking, which is invaluable information for anyone hoping to house humans on the moon in the future.
"If you want to build a lunar base or put humans on the surface for any time," Sarantos said, "you want a well-defined radiation environment."
The experiment worked like this: When the moon passed inside of the tail of Earth's magnetic field -- which streams off the Earth like a gigantic windsock whipping in the solar wind -- the moon's surface was protected for about four days from solar wind, but not from sunlight.
WATCH VIDEO: NASA's LCROSS and spent Centaur rocket was smashed into the moon in a search for water on the lunar surface. The impact was captured on video.
Organics Reportedly Found on the Moon
Tall Dust Plume Seen in Moon Crash Pics
Moon Poses Radiation Risk To Future Travelers
HowStuffWorks.com: Lunar Surface
So if the hot-particle-laden solar wind was the culprit in making the exosphere, the Japanese spacecraft SELENE should have seen a noticeable drop in the exosphere ions. But that's not what the Japanese research team saw.
"The ion fluxes were higher when the [sun was higher], which is consistent with the idea that the solar photon-driven processes dominates," writes Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Takaaki Tanaka, the lead author of the report.
In other words, powerful ultraviolet light photons are big-time exosphere-makers.
The report was published in the latest issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
In addition to offering a better understanding our moon, the measurements may actually prove valuable in interpreting the exosphere of Mercury.
Early next year the NASA MESSENGER spacecraft will go into orbit around Mercury. About the only primer we have for understanding Mercury's exosphere, said Sarantos, will be the moon's.
Finally, Sarantos said, getting a better handle on the makeup of the moon's exosphere needs to be done now, because there's no telling how much longer it will remain pristine.
: Discovery News http://bit.ly/5FQMRP
While researching this topic, I asked a relative for some practical advice to rid my house of cigarette smoke. Their answer was immediate an...
A question always asked around the net can be answered visiting http://www.kaufda.de/umwelt/carbon-neutral/1-tree-1-blog-how-it-works/ ...
New 24-hour hotline set to help stink-fighting Kingston residents - Local News - News - Moorabbin LeaderNew 24-hour hotline set to help stink-fighting Kingston residents - Local News - News - Moorabbin Leader : "DISAFFECTED residents in Cl...
Review A gripping, brilliantly told tale of the secret and deadly struggle between American national security and the kings of the oce...
A Delaware corporation and a numbered Nova Scotia company are suing a Nova Scotia couple for the costs of remediating two Bedford properties...
Booming Waikato milk production has caused more complaints about smelly dairy waste, this time at Waharoa, near Matamata, where Open Country...
A mixture of plant oils, bacterial spores and ozone is responsible for the powerful scent of fresh rain. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Juni ...
I recently moved into a new apartment. The refrigerator has an ice-maker, but the ice from it tastes musty. I let the bucket fill up. Then I...
The Hindu : Cities / Visakhapatnam : Steps being taken to contain industrial pollution in city, says APPCBThe Hindu : Cities / Visakhapatnam : Steps being taken to contain industrial pollution in city, says APPCB
Types of Perfume (Determined by the amount of solvent mix and fragrance oil ) are these: 1. Perfume has 20-40% aromatic compounds; 2. Eau...