This is a view from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft
across the north rim of Cabeus crater. The leaping dust behavior may be
observed on the moon in places like this where sunlit areas are close to
shaded regions. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
› Full-resolution copy
Electrically charged lunar dust near shadowed craters can get lofted above the surface and jump over the shadowed region, bouncing back and forth between sunlit areas on opposite sides, according to new calculations by NASA scientists.
The research is being led by Michael Collier at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., as part of the Dynamic Response of the Environment At the Moon (DREAM) team in partnership with the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), managed at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
"The motion of an individual dust particle is like a pendulum or a swing," says Collier. "We predict dust can swarm like bees around a hive over partially shaded regions on the moon and other airless objects in the solar system, such as asteroids. We found that this is a new class of dust motion. It does not escape to space or bounce long distances as predicted by others, but instead stays locally trapped, executing oscillations over a shaded region of 1 to 10 meters (yards) in size. These other trajectories are possible, but we now show a third new motion that is possible." Collier is lead author of a paper on this research published October 2012 in Advances in Space Research.
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