Moon engulfed in permanent, lopsided dust cloud: Study

Recently published study in the journal Nature has revealed that Moon is engulfed in a permanent but lopsided dust cloud made up of tiny dust grains.
The study team was led by Professor Mihaly Horanyi of University of Colorado Boulder physics.
Key fact

  • The dust cloud was discovered by using data from NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).
  • Composition: The cloud is primarily made up of tiny dust grains kicked up from the Moon’s surface. These tiny dust grains were result of the impact of high-speed, interplanetary dust particles.
  • Formation: Such a single dust particle from a comet striking the Moon’s surface lofts thousands of smaller dust particles into moon’s airless environment. This resulted in formation of lunar cloud which is maintained by regular impacts from such particles.
  • With annual events like the Geminids meteor shower, the density of dust cloud increases.
  • It should be noted that the dust on the Moon which is dark and sticky was created over several billion years ago. It was outcome of interplanetary dust particles incessantly pounded the rocky lunar surface.
  • Practical Applications of this Study: Knowledge of the dusty environments in space especially knowing where the dust is and where it is headed in the solar system may help to mitigate hazards for future human exploration missions including dust particles damaging spacecraft or harming astronauts.

Note: LADEE was launched in September 2013. It had orbited the Moon for about six months. With the help of a detector on board LADEE a CU-Boulder was charted from more than 140,000 impacts during the six-month mission.



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