The moon

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 169–186 | Cite as

Solar-wind interactions: Nature and composition of lunar atmosphere

  • Nalin R. Mukherjee
Article

Abstract

The solar wind interacts directly with the lunar surface material resulting in an essentially complete absorption of the corpuscles producing no upstream bowshock but a cavity downstream from the Moon. The main source of most neutral species of the atmosphere, except probably40Ar, is the solar-wind interaction products. The other sources which appear to be minor contributors to the atmosphere are the interaction products of cosmic rays, planetary degassing, effects of meteorite impacts and radioactive decays. Most of the hydrogen atoms derived from the solar-wind protons contribute to the atmosphere as hydrogen molecules rather than atoms. Only on the basis of the solar-wind protons, alpha particles and ions of oxygen and carbon, the atmospheric species concentration (cm−3) near the lunar surface at 300K are as follows: H2 3.3 to 9.9 × 103; He 2.4 to 4.7 × 103; H 3.7; OH 0.25; H2O 0.24; and O2, O, CO, CO2 and CH4 in concentrations smaller than H2. Whatever the source, the OH and H2O concentrations in the atmosphere are about the same. The calculated concentrations are in good agreement with the observations by the Apollo 17 lunar surface mass spectrometer and the Apollo 17 orbital UV spectrometer. At the time of sample collection from the Moon, the hydrogen content in the trapped gas layer of the lunar surface material was partly as hydrogen atoms and partly as hydrogen molecules, but at the time of sample analysis hydrogen was mostly in molecular form. The H2O content at the time of sample analysis was only a few parts per million by weight.

Keywords

Solar Wind Hydrogen Molecule Lunar Surface Interaction Product Meteorite Impact 

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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nalin R. Mukherjee
    • 1
  1. 1.Biotechnology and Space Sciences Dept.McDonnell Douglas Astronautics CompanyHuntington BeachUSA

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