Scientists have discovered iron nanoparticles on the lunar surface, which are not common on Earth. This provides additional data on how the Sun affects the Earth’s satellite.
Researchers have found tiny iron nanoparticles on the Moon, unlike those found naturally on Earth. A new study from Northern Arizona University has revealed important data for understanding the active lunar surface. In an article published in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists describe that solar radiation may be a more important source of lunar iron nanoparticles than previously thought.
They explained that asteroid impacts and solar radiation affect the Moon differently, since it does not have a protective magnetic field and atmosphere that protect us on Earth. Asteroids and solar radiation destroy lunar rocks and soil, forming iron nanoparticles that can be detected by instruments on satellites orbiting the moon. The study used data from spacecraft from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to understand how quickly iron nanoparticles form on the moon.
“We have long believed that the solar wind has little effect on the evolution of the lunar surface, when in fact it may be the most important process that produces iron nanoparticles,” the researchers noted. “Because iron absorbs a lot of light, very small amounts of these particles can be detected from very long distances, making them an excellent indicator of changes on the moon.”
Small iron nanoparticles formed at the same rate as the radiation damage in the samples obtained during the Apollo missions to the Moon, and these data indicate that the Sun has a strong influence on their formation.
“This work helps us understand how the lunar surface changes over time. This is the most exciting time for lunar scientists since the end of the Apollo era in the 70s, “added the scientists.