Washington: A new study has revealed that electric sparking might have altered the nature of lunar soil in its coldest craters.
The study done by University of New Hampshire (UNH) and NASA scientists, proposed that high-energy particles from uncommon, large solar storms penetrated the moons` frigid, polar regions and electrically charged the soil. The charging might create sparking, or electrostatic breakdown, and this "breakdown weathering" process has possibly changed the very nature of the moon`s polar soil, suggesting that permanently shadowed regions, which hold clues to our solar system`s past, might be more active than previously thought.
Andrew Jordan of the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, said that they built a computer model to estimate how high-energy particles detected by the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) instrument on board NASA`s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) can create significant electric fields in the top layer of lunar soil.
He further explained that sparking was a process in which electrons, released from the soil grains by strong electric fields, race through the material so quickly that they vaporize little channels and repeated sparking with each large solar storm could gradually grow these channels large enough to fragment the grains, disintegrating the soil into smaller particles of distinct minerals.
Timothy Stubbs of NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, said that if breakdown weathering occurs on the moon, then it has important implications for our understanding of the evolution of planetary surfaces in the solar system, especially in extremely cold regions that are exposed to harsh radiation from space.
The study is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets.