NASA detects helium in the atmosphere of the Moon

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  • The discovery was possible thanks to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbit
  • The next step is to determine whether the gas comes from the moon or outer
  • The study was complemented with measurements taken in 1972

The Orbit Lunar Reconnaissance (LRO) spacecraft has detected the presence of helium in the tenuous atmosphere surrounding the satellite. “This is a finding that provides information about the Moon in a way that was not expected when the spacecraft was launched in 2009,” said the U.S. agency.

Alan Stern, lead author, explained that find Helium in the terrestrial satellite “is just the beginning” of research that aims to determine the origin of this gas and how it gets to the lunar atmosphere.

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, has been supplemented with measurements taken in the lunar atmosphere by Apollo 17 in 1972.

The next step is to determine the source of the gas and its abundance

The next step, say the experts from NASA, is whether the gas originates inside the satellite, due to radioactive decay in rocks, or comes from an external source, such as the solar wind . In this sense, Stern pointed out that if the solar wind are responsible, the study “teach you a lot about how the same process in other airless bodies.”

However, if the observations from the spacecraft show no such correlation, the radioactive decay or other processes within the moon could be producing this gas, which spreads from the inside or released during earthquakes moles.

Future research

In addition, the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), which moves around the Moon on LRO, will allow in the future have an excellent position to determine the most likely source of helium.

Another point for future research is to determine the abundance of gas. Thus,measurements of the 70 showed an increase in the presence of helium as the night progressed , which could be explained by the cooling of the atmosphere.

But is not the only discovery of its kind in the Moon. The U.S. space agency had previously detected the presence of argon in the satellite superfie . Now with the LAMP presents the challenge of finding other gases in future observations.


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