A team of researchers from the University of Hawai’i have discovered that high energy electrons in Earth’s plasma sheet are contributing to weathering processes on the Moon’s surface. These electrons may have also aided the formation of water on the lunar surface. This new finding could help explain the origin of water ice previously discovered on the Moon.
Earth has a magnetosphere, which is a force field that protects the planet from space weathering and damaging radiation from the Sun. The magnetosphere is pushed by solar wind and forms a long tail on the night side. The plasma sheet within this magnetotail contains high energy electrons and ions from Earth and the solar wind.
Previous studies focused on the role of high energy ions in the space weathering of the Moon. The solar wind, composed of high energy particles, bombards the lunar surface and is believed to be a primary factor in the formation of water on the Moon.
The researchers analyzed remote sensing data collected by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument on India’s Chandrayaan 1 mission. They found that water formation in Earth’s magnetotail is almost identical to when the Moon is outside of the magnetotail. This suggests that there may be additional formation processes or sources of water in the magnetotail, potentially related to high energy electrons.
The lead researcher, Shuai Li, plans to continue studying the plasma environment and water content on the lunar polar surface during different phases of the Moon’s traversal through Earth’s magnetotail. This research could provide valuable insights into the relationship between Earth and the Moon.
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