Moon found to be periodically showered with oxygen ions from Earth

Posted: February 1, 2017 by oldbrew in moon, research, solar system dynamics
Tags: ,

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA


From the research paper: ‘We suggest the possibility that the Earth’s atmosphere of billions of years ago may be preserved on the present-day lunar surface.’

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Japan, examining data from that country’s moon-orbiting Kaguya spacecraft, has found evidence of oxygen from Earth’s atmosphere making its way to the surface of the moon for a few days every month, reports Phys.org.

In their paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the researchers describe what data from the spacecraft revealed.

Scientists have known for some time that the moon is constantly bombarded with particles from the solar wind and have also known that once a month, as the Earth is positioned between the sun and moon, the moon is protected from the solar wind. In this new effort, the researchers describe evidence of oxygen ion transport from Earth’s outer atmosphere to the lunar surface during this short periodic time period.

Prior research has shown that oxygen atoms become ionized in Earth’s upper atmosphere when they are struck by ultraviolet light. Sometimes, this causes them to speed up to the point that they break away from the atmosphere and move into what is known as the magnetosphere, a cocoon that surrounds our planet that is stretched like a flag away from the direction of the sun due to the solar wind—so far, in fact, that it covers the moon for five days each lunar cycle, causing the moon to be bombarded with a variety of ions. Data from Kaguya now suggests that some of those ions are oxygen. The researchers found that approximately 26,000 oxygen ions per second hit every square centimeter of the moon’s surface during the deluge.

Because the moon is protected from the solar wind by the Earth when the increase in oxygen ions was recorded, the researchers are confident they come from the Earth. Adding even more credence is that the ions were found to be moving slower than those that normally arrive via the solar wind. Also, they note, prior research has found lunar soil samples containing some degree of oxygen-17 and oxygen-18 isotopes, which are not typically found in space, but are found in the ozone layer covering Earth.

Source: Moon found to be periodically showered with oxygen ions from Earth | Phys.org

Comments
  1. TLMango says:

    OB,
    This is frightening! I would like to believe
    we are holding on to our atmosphere a little
    better than this.

  2. oldbrew says:

    The Planetary Air Leak
    As Earth’s atmosphere slowly trickles away into space,
    will our planet come to look like Venus?
    By David C. Catling and Kevin J. Zahnle

    AIR EVAPORATES MOLECULE BY MOLECULE
    In an atmosphere’s uppermost layer, or exosphere, nothing stops the fastest-moving atoms and molecules from flying off into space. This process, known as Jeans escape, accounts for much of the leakage of hydrogen from our planet.

    http://faculty.washington.edu/dcatling/Catling2009_SciAm.pdf
    [see graphic on page 5 – numbered 40 in the pdf]
    – – –
    Earth is too large to lose a significant proportion of its atmosphere through Jeans escape.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_escape#Dominant_atmospheric_escape_and_loss_processes_on_Earth

    Think ‘escape velocity’.

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    Once saw a figure of 50,000 tons a day! Only the volcanic out gassing helps to make up the loss. Earth is slowly slipping towards Mars like conditions. The main cause of this string of Ice Ages we have enjoyed for the last few million years is the change in atmospheric density altitude due to decreased volcanism.

    A surface pressure change equivalent of only 500 feet of elevation equals a snow line move of 500 miles in latitude.

    The AMOUNT of atmospheric gasses the earth possesses has a direct bearing on the average surface pressure or density. The surface DENSITY has a direct bearing on the energy contained in it and therefore the surface average temperature.

    Maybe now you can see WHY Dinosaurs could live in polar regions 100 million years ago! Larger heaver creatures could fly, it was 10F warmer. There was a deeper blanket of atmospheric gasses to hold the warmth in, even with a bit cooler sun…g

  4. catweazle666 says:

    “This is frightening! I would like to believe
    we are holding on to our atmosphere a little
    better than this.”

    Perhaps we could build a giant greenhouse to keep it in!

  5. dscott says:

    Why is it that the assumption of movement by atoms are only one direction, away from earth? Isn’t it equally possible that Venus at 92 bar atmospheric pressure contributed to earth’s atmosphere by the action of the solar wind blowing it off Venus and transporting it to earth? After all, the earth is a gravity well and therefore anything in it’s orbital path will be pulled in. All things being equal, anything boiled off an atmosphere is available to be pulled back in by gravity when it loses it’s escape velocity from Black Body Radiation effects.

    I’m more of the opinion that any significant loss of atmosphere is more from large asteroid strikes and grazing asteroid passes that blast or pull air out of the atmosphere than a boil off of energetic atoms. Mars would be a good example of this possibility, Hellas Planitia was created by a massive asteroid strike which probably blew off most of the Martian atmosphere.

    Venus’s existing dense atmosphere in such close proximity to the sun where the solar wind is strong also brings into question the whole idea of the solar wind removing or reducing the atmosphere of a gravity well object like a moon, planet or asteroid. Meaning a gradual boil off is dependent on the escape velocity and the energy available to accelerate individual atoms. Look at Titan (thick atmosphere) versus the Moon (virtually non existent), will similar escape velocities, the real difference is solar energy available to heat the atoms. Venus and Earth are close in escape velocity but Venus is actually lower.

    I’m not discounting volcanism but that is an additive mechanism versus the subtractive mechanism.

  6. oldbrew says:

    dscott – this is the key:
    ‘the magnetosphere, a cocoon that surrounds our planet that is stretched like a flag away from the direction of the sun due to the solar wind—so far, in fact, that it covers the moon for five days each lunar cycle, causing the moon to be bombarded with a variety of ions.’

    Venus doesn’t have any magnetosphere worth mentioning.

  7. gymnosperm says:

    First I’ve heard of any element heavier than Helium being able to achieve escape velocity. As a breather, I personally hate the idea.

  8. dscott says:

    Venus doesn’t have any magnetosphere worth mentioning.

    Which only strengthens my doubts about the origin of O2 or any other atom or molecule. Without out a magnetosphere there is less of a barrier to the movement beyond gravity of said molecules from Venus.

    I don’t doubt that molecules from Earth made it to the moon. I doubt the idea that the Earth is a net loser of atmosphere to space given the continued atmospheric density of Venus in the face of stronger solar wind effects there than on Earth.

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