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Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

Dusty Plasma Processes

"Horizon glow" above the surface of the Moon. (Courtesy NASA)

During the Apollo era, astronauts saw what they called “horizon glow” and “streamers” in the Moon’s exosphere, or outmost atmosphere. Since then, many scientists have suggested that these phenomena are caused by sunlight scattered by dust grains in the exosphere. Questions about how lunar dust and dusty plasmas are charged, mobilized, and transported remain at the center of lunar dust studies.

CCLDAS is developing a series of laboratory experiments, supplemented by state-of-the-art theory and modeling, to determine:

  • The properties of the near-surface plasma environment
  • The charging, mobilization, lift-off, transport, and adhesion of lunar dust grains

The results of these measurements will provide answers to open questions about the lunar surface and near-surface environment, and new physical insights for lunar exploration planners.

Trace of Dust Trajectory:

The following video shows an example of the trajectory of a positively charged, submicron dust grain within the lunar plasma environment. CCLDAS studies charged dust dynamics within the lunar plasma environment using the VorpalĀ© models.