Every object, planet, or person traveling in space must deal with the harmful radiation of the Sun – and the Moon has the scars to prove it.
Research using data from NASA's ARTEMIS mission – abbreviated Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's interaction with the Sun – suggests how the solar wind and the crustal magnetic fields of the Moon work together to give the moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter whirlpools. .
The Sun releases a continuous stream of particles and radiation called solar wind. The solar wind is spreading on the planets, moons and other bodies of our solar system, filling a bubble of space called heliosphere – which extends far beyond the orbit of Pluto.
Here on Earth, we are largely protected from the harmful effects of the solar wind: the latter being magnetized, the Earth's natural magnetic field deflects the particles of the solar wind around our planet, so that only a small part of the Earth's solar energy is lost. between them reaches the atmosphere of our planet.
But unlike the Earth, the moon does not have a global magnetic field. However, magnetic rocks located near the lunar surface create small localized magnetic field spots that range from a few hundred meters to hundreds of kilometers. This is the kind of information that needs to be understood to better protect astronauts on the moon from the effects of radiation. Magnetic field bubbles themselves are not robust enough to protect humans from this radiative environment, but studying their structure could help develop techniques to protect our future explorers.
"The magnetic fields of some regions act locally as this magnetic sunscreen," said Andrew Poppe, a scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, who studied the crustal magnetic fields of the moon with the help of data from NASA's ARTEMIS mission and simulated the environment.
These small magnetic "sunscreen" bubbles can also deflect solar wind particles, but on a much smaller scale than the Earth's magnetic field. Although they are not enough to protect the astronauts themselves, they have a fundamental effect on the appearance of the moon. Under these miniature magnetic umbrellas, the material that forms the surface of the moon, called regolith, is protected from the particles of the Sun. When these particles flow to the Moon, they are diverted to areas just around magnetic bubbles, where chemical reactions with the regolith obscure the surface. This creates distinctive whirlwinds of darker and lighter materials that are so important that they can be seen from Earth – another piece of the puzzle to help us understand the next NASA project, NASA, in the next decade.
By Sarah Frazier
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.