Lunar Backscatter and Neutralization of the Solar Wind

First observations Lunar Backscatter and Neutralization of the Solar Wind from the Moon

The solar wind continuously flows out from the Sun, filling interplanetary space and impinging directly on the lunar regolith. While most solar wind ions are implanted into the lunar dust, a significant fraction is expected to scatter back and be emitted as energetic neutral atoms (ENAs). However, this population has never been observed, let alone characterized. IBEX observations have shown the first observations of backscattered neutral atoms from the Moon and these observations were used to determine that the efficiency for this process, the lunar ENA albedo, is ~10%. This indicates that the Moon emits ~150 metric tons of hydrogen per year. Our observations are important for understanding the universal processes of backscattering and neutralization from complex surfaces, which occur wherever space plasmas interact with dust and other small bodies throughout our solar system as well as in planetary systems throughout the galaxy and beyond.


McComas, D.J., F. Allegrini, P. Bochsler, P. Frisch, H.O. Funsten, M. Gruntman, P.H. Janzen, H. Kucharek, E. Möbius, D.B. Reisenfeld, and N.A. Schwadron, Lunar backscatter and neutralization of the solar wind: First observations of neutral atoms from the Moon, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L12104, doi:10.1029/2009GL038794, 2009.

Rodriguez, D.F., L. Saul, P. Wurz, S.A. Fuselier, H.O. Funsten, D.J. McComas, and E. Möbius, IBEX–Lo observations of energetic neutral hydrogen atoms originating from the lunar surface, Planetary and Space Science, 60, 297–303, 2012.