How the Moon got ‘sunburns’: A result of sheer magnetism

• The Moon has visible ‘sunburns’, or distinctive patterns of swirls on its surface.

• NASA has now analysed data to show that these are a result of interactions between the Sun’s damaging radiation with pockets of lunar magnetic field.

• Every object, planet or person travelling through space has to contend with the Sun’s damaging radiation.

• Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission suggests how the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.

Crucial highlights

• The Sun releases a continuous outflow of particles and radiation called the solar wind. Because the solar wind is magnetized.

• Earth’s natural magnetic field deflects the solar wind particles so that only a small fraction of them reach the planet’s atmosphere.

• But the Moon has no global magnetic field; magnetised rocks near the lunar surface do create small, localised spots of magnetic field.

• The magnetic fields in some regions are locally acting as this magnetic sunscreen.

• Under these miniature magnetic umbrellas, the material that makes up the Moon’s surface, called regolith, is shielded from the Sun’s particles.

• As those particles flow toward the Moon, they are deflected to the areas just around the magnetic bubbles, where chemical reactions with the regolith darken the surface.

• This creates the distinctive swirls of darker and lighter material.

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Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

Prelims level: ARTEMIS Mission

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives

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