Physicists at Space Research Institute and Higher School of Economics have finally found out the mystery behind dusty plasma clouds on moon’s surface. When meteoroids collide with lunar surface, properties of nearby dusty plasma is greatly changed as large amounts of moon’s soil-regolith debris get spread into unsullied exosphere.
Back in 2015, astronomers from Garden Observatory in Switzerland had observed almost a similar occurrence. An optical flash was recorded which came out from a meteoroid’s collision with moon. A team of scientists concluded from these previous astronomical observations – a huge and speeding meteoroid had hit the lunar surface, thus forming two dust clouds whose composition has yet not been known.
Researchers from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Far Eastern Federal University, Space Research Institute, Sternberg Astronomical Institute and Higher School of Economics have found out the possible reason behind dust clouds. They jointly determined that collision of meteoroid and lunar surface creates a shock wave which spreads fragments of regolith and drops of molten substances into the surrounding area. The fragments and molten drops go above the lunar surface. Then they react with electrons from solar radiation and solar wind to have electrical charge. Thus, two separate clouds are formed. One has regolith fragments and the other one has frozen drops of molten substances. Due to the different characteristics of two dust clouds, they can be seen separately.
Researchers so far have calculated certain features of the clouds which include – size, speed at which they expand, particles’ electrical charge, number density etc. Data extracted from the observation and that derived from the calculations matched perfectly. It was then found that the cloud of hard molten substances expand faster compared to the dust cloud formed of regolith fragments. A study however mentioned that dust on moon surface is hazardous for spacecrafts, health of astronauts and equipments.