Cosmic Rays Alter Chemistry of Lunar Ice

Cosmic Rays Alter Chemistry of Lunar Ice

Mar 22, 2012

Space scientists from UNH, working as part of a multi-institutional team, have quantified levels of radiation on the moon’s surface from galactic cosmic ray (GCR) bombardment that over time causes chemical changes in water ice and can create complex carbon chains similar to those that help form the foundations of biological structures. In addition, the radiation process causes the lunar soil, or regolith, to darken over time, which is important in understanding the geologic history of the moon.

The radiation was measured by the CRaTER instrument onboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.

The scientists present their findings in a paper published online in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR). “Lunar Radiation Environment and Space Weathering from the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER)" has as its lead author Nathan Schwadron, an associate professor of physics at the UNH Space Science Center within the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS). Co-author Harlan Spence is the director of EOS and lead scientist for the CRaTER instrument.

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