Atmosphere of the Moon

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Atmosphere of the Moon

Post  meodingu on Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:45 pm

Atmosphere of the Moon

The Moon has an atmosphere so tenuous as to be nearly vacuum, with a total mass of less than 10 metric tons.[70] The surface pressure of this small mass is around 3 × 10−15 atm (0.3 nPa); it varies with the lunar day. Its sources include outgassing and sputtering, the release of atoms from the bombardment of lunar soil by solar wind ions.[5][71] Elements that have been detected include sodium and potassium, produced by sputtering, which are also found in the atmospheres of Mercury and Io; helium-4 from the solar wind; and argon-40, radon-222, and polonium-210, outgassed after their creation by radioactive decay within the crust and mantle.[72][73] The absence of such neutral species (atoms or molecules) as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and magnesium, which are present in the regolith, is not understood.[72] Water vapour has been detected by Chandrayaan-1 and found to vary with latitude, with a maximum at ~60–70 degrees; it is possibly generated from the sublimation of water ice in the regolith.[74] These gases can either return into the regolith due to the Moon's gravity, or be lost to space: either through solar radiation pressure, or if they are ionised, by being swept away by the solar wind's magnetic field.[72]



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