Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Solar photons drive water off the moon

17.06.2014

Research provides measurements for scientists searching for water in solar system

Water is thought to be embedded in the moon’s rocks or, if cold enough, “stuck” on their surfaces. It’s predominantly found at the poles. But scientists probably won’t find it intact on the sunlit side.


A lunar sample in a ultra-high vacuum system is hit with ultraviolet (157 nm) photons to simulate conditions in space.

New research at the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates that ultraviolet photons emitted by the sun likely cause H2O molecules to either quickly desorb or break apart. The fragments of water may remain on the lunar surface, but the presence of useful amounts of water on the sunward side is not likely.

The Georgia Tech team built an ultra-high vacuum system that simulates conditions in space, then performed the first-ever reported measurement of the water photodesorption cross section from an actual lunar sample. The machine zapped a small piece of the moon with ultraviolet (157 nm) photons to create excited states and watched what happened to the water molecules. They either came off with a cross section of ~ 6 x 10−19 cm2  or broke apart with a cross section of  ~ 5  x 10−19 cm2.. According to the team’s measurements, approximately one in every 1,000 molecules leave the lunar surface simply due to absorption of UV light.

Georgia Tech’s cross section values can now be used by scientists attempting to find water throughout the solar system and beyond.

“The cross section is an important number planetary scientists, astrochemists and the astrophysics community need for models regarding the fate of water on comets, moons, asteroids, other airless bodies and interstellar grains,” said Thomas Orlando, the Georgia Tech professor who led the study.

The number is relatively large, which establishes that solar UV photons are likely removing water from the moon’s surface. This research, which was carried out primarily by former Georgia Tech Ph.D. student Alice DeSimone, indicates the cross sections increase even more with decreasing water coverage. That’s why it’s not likely that water remains intact as H2O on the sunny side of the moon. Orlando compares it to sitting outside on a summer day.

“If a lot of sunlight is hitting me, the probability of me getting sunburned is pretty high,” said Orlando, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and School of Physics. “It’s similar on the moon. There’s a fixed solar flux of energetic photons that hit the sunlit surface, and there’s a pretty good probability they remove water or damage the molecules.“

The result, according to Orlando, is the release of molecules such as H2O, H2 and OH as well as the atomic fragments H and O.   The research is published in two companion articles in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. The first discusses the water photodesorption. The second paper details the photodissociation of water and the  O(3PJ) formation on a lunar impact melt breccia. 

Orlando is the associate director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Space Technology and Research (C-STAR). C-STAR is an interdisciplinary research center that serves to organize, integrate and facilitate the impact of Georgia Tech's space science and space technology research activities. The center brings together a wide range of Georgia Tech faculty, active in space science and space technology research, and functions as the Institute’s focal point for growth of the space industry in the state of Georgia.

This material is based upon work supported by NASA under award number NNX11AP13G. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NASA.

Jason Maderer | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.news.gatech.edu/2014/06/16/solar-photons-drive-water-moon

Further reports about: NASA UV light astrophysics comets lunar photodesorption photons solar system

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Steep rise of the Bernese Alps
24.03.2017 | Universität Bern

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>