Moon craters may be electrified

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Washington, May 24 (ANI): Astronauts who would step on the moon in future will have to endure more than dust and frigid temperatures-the moon's electrified poles.

According to an analysis, potentially hazardous electrical fields exist in the moon's polar regions.

The phenomenon may be responsible for levitating dust from the moon's surface.

The finding is applicable to other small, air-less bodies, like asteroids.

Moon explorers should be warned that travelling through the pits might result in nasty electrical shocks.

That's because crater walls effectively block plasma streaming from the sun, leaving little electrically charged matter to cancel out static buildup from a rover on the move, an astronaut walking, or any other activity that generates friction.

"The last thing you want to do is drive a rover wheel and have it charging up and then have an astronaut walking by and have it discharge," Discovery News quoted Bill Farrell, a plasma physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., as saying.

"At the atomic, molecular and even the micron level, the moon is actually pretty active. There are all kinds of weird processes that go on. It's subtle, but it's there," he added.

The study also provides an explanation for why columns of dust rise from the moon's surface- a phenomena reported by the Apollo astronauts and other lunar missions.

Farrell said that electrostatic forces might be able to levitate dust and material from inside craters, creating a far easier method for obtaining samples for analysis than sending probes inside pits.

"When you have strong negative surface potential, you could have lifted and lofted dust at the edges of these fields. The dust is being ejected," said Farrell.

Other lunar scientists are working to mesh the computational analysis of lunar electric fields with detailed topographical maps being compiled from data collected by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

NASA is planning to launch a lunar mission known as LADEE in 2012 to sample lunar dust and gases.

The information will be folded into computer models Farrell and colleagues have designed of how the moon's surface becomes electrically charged.

"Now that we have some model of the moon's polar environment, we're kind of going off in a couple of different directions," said Farrell. (ANI)

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