Levitation of dust particles on the bright side of the moon was associated with the magnetic tail of the Earth

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from the National Research University Higher School of Economics have developed a mathematical model that explains the levitation of charged particles over the surface of the Moon illuminated by the Sun at almost any latitude.

For the first time, the model takes into account the Earth‘s magnetic tail, a region in the vicinity of our planet that has special properties. These data will help in planning future Luna-25 and Luna-27 lunar missions.

In outer space, the Moon is surrounded by plasma (ionized gas) that contains solid dust particles. On the Moon’s surface, dust particles that are hit by photons, electrons, and solar wind ions become positively charged. Their interaction with the positively charged surface of the Moon causes dust particles to bounce off and form clouds of dusty plasma.

As a result of these factors, the lunar plasma, consisting of dust, should evolve only over a part of the lunar surface (at latitudes above 76 degrees).

However, in fact, it is expected that the plasma, consisting of dust, can be observed on the entire surface of the side of the Moon facing the Sun. The new model developed by the authors of the work allows us to explain this fact, taking into account the role of the magnetic tail of our planet.

The Earth’s magnetosphere evolves due to the interaction between the planet’s magnetic field and charged particles from space. Under the influence of a magnetic field, for example, particles of the solar wind deviate from the original trajectory and form a cloud around the planet.

It is asymmetric – on the day side its size is 8-14 Earth radii, and on the night side the magnetic field is extended to hundreds of radii of our planet, forming an extended magnetic tail.

For one quarter of its orbit, the Moon is inside the Earth’s magnetic tail, which affects the movement of particles along the meridian – under the influence of a magnetic field, they begin to move from the polar regions to the equator.

These particles are affected by both gravitational and electrostatic forces. The former attract particles to the surface of the moon, while the latter cause them to repulse. As a result, vertical oscillation of the particles is observed.

After that, the particles go into a state of levitation. The authors of the article explain this by the fact that on the Moon a sunny day lasts quite a long time – almost 15 Earth days.

During this time, the oscillation process has time to subside, that is, the particles have enough time to reach the state of levitation. According to the researchers, there are cases where the opposite phenomenon has been observed.

For example, on the satellites of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, the duration of the termination of dust particle oscillations exceeds the duration of the solar day, so they do not have time to go into a state of levitation.


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