Dusty Plasma Effects in the System Earth–Moon

1st Team Meeting

Bern, Switzerland, 18-22.02.2013

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The overall goal of the present proposal consists in providing essential synergy for achieving major progress in the area of dusty plasma processes occurring in the system Earth–Moon and in the incorporation of this field into modern space and planetary sciences.

The field of dusty plasmas is intrinsically interdisciplinary and encompasses astrophysics, planetary science, atmospheric science, fusion science, and various applied technologies. Dusty plasma is a multi-component plasma consisting of ions, electrons and charged solid or liquid particles in the micron or nanometer size.

The present project deals with the origin and manifestations of a dusty plasma in the system Earth-Moon. From the Apollo era of exploration it was discovered that sunlight was scattered at the terminators giving rise to “horizon glow” and “streamers” above the lunar surface

Investigations of plasma–dust interactions within the present project can be helpful for the future missions to the Moon, Luna-Resource and Luna-Glob planned for 2015. The lunar landers Luna-Resource and Luna-Glob will study polar regions of the Moon and carry, in particular, the equipment designed to detect dust particles and to measure the associated electric fields.

Dusty plasmas in the system Earth–Moon have some peculiarities. The lunar surface is subjected to the action of the solar wind plasma flow for most of its orbit, solar UV and X-rays. Furthermore, the interaction of the solar radiation with the lunar surface and dusts results in the formation of photoelectron layer over the surface of the Moon. Thus the lunar surface, like any object in a plasma, charges to an electrostatic potential that minimizes the total incident current of electrons and ions. Lunar surface charging exists also when the Moon interacts with the magnetospheric plasmas. Thus the consideration of the dusty plasmas in the system Earth–Moon has to take into account the surface electric field of the Moon.

Also the problem of evaluation of the influence of the hydrogen on the properties of the dusty plasma in the vicinity of the Moon is considering.

To achieve the progress in an understanding of dusty plasma processes occurring in the system Earth–Moon, the focus will be on theoretical and computational modeling of various problems related to the following scientific objectives:

·         Description of the origin of lunar dust, dust grain properties, size distributions, chemical and mineralogical compositions.

·         Analysis of laboratory studies modeling properties of lunar dust.

·         Evaluation of the influence of the hydrogen on the properties of a dusty plasma in the vicinity of the Moon.

·         Theoretical investigation and modeling of lunar dust interaction with the solar wind and Earth’s magnetospheric plasmas, dust grain charging, dynamics and transport of dust grains in the lunar exosphere (including those in the polar lunar regions) and Earth’s magnetosphere.

·         Theoretical investigation and modeling of wave and collective phenomena in the dusty plasma system Earth–Moon, determination of mechanisms of energy exchange between dust and solar wind particles, dust particle acceleration by the solar wind particles.

·         Formulation of recommendations on development of experimental methods on observation (in the polar regions) and analysis of dusty plasmas existing in the near-surface layer of the Moon.