Moon dust stickiness depends on solar elevation angle

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Washington, June 1 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have found that electrostatic forces that make lunar dust stick to surfaces vary with solar elevation angle.

The research was conducted by Brian O'Brien and colleagues from Brian J. O'Brien and Associates Pty. Ltd., Floreat, Western Australia, Australia.

Lunar dust, which is thought to be the prime environmental hazard on the Moon, can damage scientific instruments and harm the health of astronauts who inhale it, but its adhesive properties have not been well understood.

Analyzing data from the matchbox-sized dust detector experiments deployed by astronauts on the Apollo 11 and 12 missions in 1969, O'Brien finds that the electrostatic forces that make lunar dust stick to surfaces vary with solar elevation angle.

This is because dust particles become positively charged through photoelectric effects excited by solar ultraviolet radiation and X rays, so more intense direct sunlight increases the electrostatic forces that make the dust adhesive.

O'Brien's analysis shows that after dust had collected on the detector and as the solar incidence angle decreased over the course of the lunar day, the electrostatic forces holding the dust to the detector's vertical silicon surface weakened, and the dust began to fall off due to gravity.

The author suggests that on future Moon missions, a sun-proof shed could provide a dust-free working environment for astronauts. (ANI)

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