Moon Particles Levitate; NASA Answers Why

First Posted: Jan 10, 2017 04:10 AM EST

The dust particles on the Moon "levitate" above the surface. Currently, a new study suggests how this so-called levitation happens, given that the Moon has no following water or wind to possibly trigger the particles to uplift.

Recently, according to a laboratory study that was conducted by researchers, it is found that micron-size dust particles are able to "jump" a couple of centimeters high under an ultraviolet radiation or when exposed to the plasmas.

Officials from NASA said in a statement that, "On Earth's moon, these dust particles would have been lifted more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) above the lunar surface, leading researchers to conclude that the moon's 'horizon glow' - seen in images taken by Surveyor 5, 6 and 7 five decades ago - may have been caused in part by sunlight scattering in a cloud of electrostatically lofted dust particles."

The horizontal glow of the Moon is a slim, bright crescent just above the lunar surface. It was observed by Apollo astronauts. The scientists think that the "levitation" comes from lunar dust particles that scatter light, according to Live Science.

The NASA officials added that the recent study is based on the previous research that shows the neighboring dust particles can generate unexpectedly large electrical charges and intense particle-particle repulsive forces. It lifts the particles of various sizes of the lunar surface, according to NASA.

Furthermore, in the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the electrostatic dust mobilization may be able to help explain the formation of "dust ponds" on the asteroid Eros and Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Thus, it is reason of the smooth surface on Saturn's icy moon Atlas.

The first author of the study and NASA's Lunar Science Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Xu Wang said that, "This new 'patched charge model' resolved a fundamental mechanism of dust charging and transport, which has been puzzling scientists for decades. We expect dust particles to mobilize and transport electrostatically over the entire lunar surface, as well as the surface of any other airless planetary body."

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