The Moon may not have an atmosphere, but it does have “weather” after a fashion. Researchers have found that the particles in solar wind appear to interact with the Moon in an unexpected way, reports the Daily Mail.
The solar particles interact with the Earth’s magnetic field to create the aurora borealis. But the Moon lacks a magnetic field, so scientists thought it passively absorbed the solar wind. But measurements made by Indian’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter have revealed that 10% of the solar wind is reflected back into space, creating turbulence as solar wind streams past the Moon. Vortexes billow onto the dark side of the Moon.
Charles Lue, a researcher at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, has found that the reflection of solar wind varies with localized magnetic fields on the lunar surface.
Explains the Daily Mail:
In areas with strong magnetism, caused by iron in the crust, the solar wind flow is restricted, while adjacent areas receive increased flow. This results in unusual spirals of ions streaming off the dayside of the moon, where the solar wind strikes first, to the nightside.
The weathering of the moon’s surface by the solar wind may be less than previously predicted, which could mean there is less water hidden beneath the crust. Said Lue: “The reduced solar wind weathering allows us to separate micro-meteorite and solar wind-inducing weathering, including the effects of different solar wind species, differently well shielded.”