Waves of plasma from the sun known as solar wind have been found to affect the levels of water on the moon as well as other lunar features, according to new a research conducted by scientists in Sweden.
Researcher Charles Lue and his colleagues at the Umea University and the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) detected a considerable amount of activity between solar wind and the moon using the space instrument known as the Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyzer (SARA).
This observation contradicts earlier assumptions by scientists that the Earth's natural satellite only passively absorbs plasma waves from the sun without affecting its environment.
"This knowledge is of great importance to the lunar space environment which is affected both on the lunar dayside and nightside surfaces," Lue said.
The researchers observed that ions of solar wind reflected by the moon travel through a spiraling motion. This takes them from the moon's lunar dayside, where the solar wind initially hits, to its nightside.
In lunar regions with high levels of magnetism, the flow of solar wind is mostly limited on the moon's surface while adjacent areas tend to receive a significant amount of the plasma flow.
Lue pointed out that the impact of solar wind on the moon can be observed as visible light such as bright swirling markings on the lunar surface.
It is believed that the occurrence affects the lunar surface in the long run as well as impacts the levels of water found in the moon's crust.
"The observations help us map and understand the variations in the lunar space environment," Lue said. "They also give us clues about the physical processes involved and the long-term effects they have on the lunar surface."
The IRF's SARA space instrument was transported to the moon aboard the Indian lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan-1.
The research device has collected data on the interaction between the moon and solar wind in 2009, which scientists, including Lue, have since analyzed.