Lunar regolith and water ice escape due to micrometeorite bombardment

1J.P.Pabari,1S.Nambiar,2V.Shah,1A.Bhardwaj
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2019.113510]
1PRL, Ahmedabad, India
2CSPIT, Changa, India
Copyright Elsevier

Dust particles exist everywhere in interplanetary space and they evolve dynamically after their origination from the sources like Asteroid belt, Kuiper belt, comets or space debris left during the formation of solar system. These micrometeorites encounter the inner planets, while they spiral-in towards the Sun. From whichever come to Earth, many particles are ablated in the Earth’s atmosphere and leave the metallic ions behind. In case of Moon, all such particles can reach the surface without ablation owing to the absence of atmosphere. Due to the impact of hypervelocity dust particles on lunar surface, ejecta come out in the lunar environment. In some cases, the ejecta velocity could be larger than the escape velocity and particles may be able to escape from Moon. Further, the escaping ejecta may carry water ice (volatiles), whenever incoming projectiles hit the surface in polar region with the water ice present. In this paper, we have computed the ejecta parameters and estimated the possible escape of volatiles from Moon, using Galileo observations of the dust particles near Moon. Considering the incident angle distribution, the upper limit of regolith escape rate is found to be ~2.218 × 10−4 [1.662 × 10−4, 10.232 × 10−4] kg/s. Similarly, the upper limit of water ice escape rate is found to be ~1.988 × 10−7 [1.562 × 10−7, 7.567 × 10−7] kg/s. On one side, Moon is found to be gradually becoming heavier due to its one order higher incoming dust particles than those escaping from it. While on the other side, Moon could be depleted of water ice (volatiles) resources over a period of time, because of the escape due to micrometeorite impact. The results presented here could be useful to understand the dust and volatile escape from Moon.

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