Solar Storms Can Charge Up The Soil At Lunar Poles

Posted: Jan 7 2017, 5:37am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Solar Storms can Charge up the Soil at Lunar Poles
Illustration showing how solar energetic particles may cause dielectric breakdown in lunar regolith in a permanently shadowed region (PSR). Tiny breakdown events could occur throughout the floor of the PSR. Credit: NASA/Andrew Jordan

NASA reveals sparks on soils at moon’s poles caused by solar storms

New research shows that intense solar storms impact the soil. The storms can affect frigid soil in the shadowed areas that exist across lunar poles. Sparks are produced, and the soil gets melted or gets vaporized. NASA scientist hope that their future missions will help them understand solar system and moon’s history.

Moon is vulnerable to the intense space atmosphere. Most impacts are created by small meteoroids affecting regolith on moon, the rocky and dusty layer. Meteoroids have melted 10 percent of regolith, and solar storms also cause sparks that can melt same percent of soil, stated Andrew Jordan of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, who is also lead author of a recently published paper in Icarus.

Certain solar activities release charged particles, like blasts, flares, and certain coronal emissions. Earth protects us from these radiations, but moon’s surface gets affected due to electrons and ions that produce two layers on moon. Ions make a layer near the surface but, electrons make a deep layer. Ions create positive and electrons create negative charge. Flow of both charges towards each other creates balance.

A research study published in august 2014 predicted that solar storms create sparks over regolith. The PSRs or moons permanently shadowed regions are frigid that makes regolith poor electric conductors, causing dielectric breakdown due to harsh solar storms. The impact is so intense that it can completely change the regolith.

This is not a new space phenomenon for the scientists, because poor conductors in space often cause spacecraft anomalies, stated Timothy Stubbs of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a co-author of the paper.

NASA scientist observed from Apollo lunar missions that solar storms often occur ,and found that the deeply buried layer of regolith formed millions of years before, that showed they could not be affected by electric charging. But, the scientists found that deep buried energy creates sparks due to solar storm.

The lab test show that dielectric breakdown is just a tiny process, but more impact happens due to melting and vaporization of soil. The scientists are now trying to find if the dielectric breakdown also happens in other moons surfaces, like in PSRs. The researchers are working at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

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