People are not the only ones who can get sunburns. The coloration of the moon, some of which are visible from the Earth, maybe a lunar version of sunburn scars.
A report from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration says that unlike the Earth, the moon does not have full protection against the constant release of particles and radiation from the sun known as the solar wind. Such a lack of shielding property exposes the lunar surface to damages from the sun.
The solar wind ejects from the corona of the sun to different directions. As the corona has extremely high temperatures, the sun's gravity cannot even get a grip of it.
The solar wind travels at a speed of about 1 million miles per hour. It surges over the moons, planets, and other materials in space filling up the heliosphere, which reaches far beyond Pluto's orbit.
Difference Between Earth And Moon
While the solar wind sounds like an immensely damaging force, Earthlings need not worry. The solar wind is magnetized. Luckily, the Earth is enveloped in a naturally existing magnetic field, thus, it has the ability to divert the direction of the solar wind away from the planet. With this, only remnants of the solar wind are able to make it to the Earth's atmosphere.
The moon's condition in relation to the solar wind is a different story. Foremost, the moon does not have a magnetic field around it. This gives the solar wind a free pass on getting in contact with the lunar surface.
Worthy to note, however, is the presence of magnetized rocks near the moon's surface. Such rocks create small magnetic fields that reach from yards to miles.
Sunscreen Effects May Help Future Moon Missions
From the looks of it, the little magnetic bubbles on the moon's surface act like sunscreen. Although these spots are not sufficient enough to safeguard humans from radiation, scientists believe that studying it can help shed light on astronaut safety in the moon. Deeper investigation of the magnetic bubbles' structure could aid experts to come up with strategies to safeguard future space explorers.
Andrew Poppe, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, currently studies the magnetic fields of the moon's crust with the help of NASA's Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun or ARTEMIS.
He also looks into simulations of the moon's magnetic conditions. For him, the sunscreen comparison is a highly valid idea.
"The magnetic fields in some regions are locally acting as this magnetic sunscreen," said Poppe.
The magnetic sunscreen results in an important change in the appearance of the moon's surface. Regolith is the part of the lunar surface, which is protected from the solar wind because it is found underneath the magnetic bubbles.
When the sun particles travel toward the moon, it gets deflected to areas surrounding the bubbles, creating a chemical reaction that darkens the surface. Such a process produces very distinct patterns of dark and light swirls on the moon, sunburn scars as some may call it.