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Grain-scale supercharging on the Moon and other airless bodies

Michael Zimmerman
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Abstract Text: 

Theory and simulations are employed to show that MV/m electric fields can develop in tiny regolith pores over a single lunar (or asteroidal) day, orders of magnitude stronger than predicted by classical plasma sheath theory. This "supercharging" field amplification between grains could explain how 1% solar wind protons are reflected from the lunar surface (as measured by Kaguya and Chandrayaan). Supercharging could also also provide a mechanism for lunar swirl formation, if breakdown level electric fields are prevalent enough to loft or pulverized grains in the unique plasma environment near crustal magnetic fields. Timescales for the electric force to overcome gravity and cohesion are estimated for spherical supercharging grains, the dissipative role of conductivity is highlighted, and relevance to lab experiments is discussed.

SSERVI Identifier: 

Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."