Washington, Feb 28 (IANS) With NASA planning to put astronauts back on the Moon, scientists have explored how Sun’s damaging radiation left scars on the lunar surface.
A team from the University of California-Berkeley studied data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission along with simulations of the Moon’s magnetic environment.
ARTEMIS is short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun.
The data suggests that the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.
The Sun releases a continuous outflow of particles and radiation called the solar wind, which spreads over the planets, Moons and other bodies in our solar system.
People on Earth are largely protected from the damaging effects of the solar wind because the solar wind is magnetised. Earth’s natural magnetic field deflects the solar wind particles around our planet so that only a small fraction of them reach our planet’s atmosphere, the scientists explained.
However, unlike Earth, the Moon has no global magnetic field.
But, magnetised rocks near the lunar surface do create small, localised spots of magnetic field that extend anywhere from hundreds of yards to hundreds of miles.
This is the kind of information that needs to be well understood to better protect astronauts on the Moon from the effects of radiation, said Andrew Poppe, a scientist at the varsity.
“The magnetic fields in some regions are locally acting as this magnetic sunscreen,” Poppe added.
These small bubbles of magnetic “sunscreen” can also deflect solar wind particles. They also shield regolith – the material that makes up the Moon’s surface – from Sun’s particles.
The magnetic field bubbles by themselves are not robust enough to protect humans from that harsh radiation environment, but studying their structure could help develop techniques to protect our future explorers, Poppe said.