NASA's Close Gamma-ray Space Telescope has been observing the moon for 10 years. Although our eyes cannot see gamma rays, the space telescope shows us how it is to "see" the moon from a high-energy ray perspective. In new Fermi images, the moon shines brighter than the sun and it is a fiery sight.
Gamma ray observations are not sensitive enough to clearly note lunar surface features or the disk shape of the moon, yet Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) detects a strong brightness centered on the position of the moon in the sky, a press release said. NASA. By studying Fermi's images, NASA can help protect astronauts from dangerous conditions, including high-energy gamma radiation when they visit the moon.
Francesco Loparco and Mario Nicola Mazziotta, both of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Bari, studied the gamma ray light of the moon to better understand cosmic rays, fast-moving particles, which are another type of radiation from space.
Because these particles are electrically charged, they are strongly hit by magnetic fields that the moon does not have. Cheap cosmic rays can reach the surface of the moon and make the moon a "space-detecting particle," according to NASA. When cosmic rays hit the surface, they interact with the regulite (powdery surface of the moon), to generate gamma-ray emissions. The moon absorbs most of these gamma rays, yet some of them escape.
Loparco and Mazziotta analyzed lunar observations from Fermi LAT to demonstrate how this view improved during the mission. The duo collected data on gamma rays with energies over 31 million electron volts, more than 10 million times greater than the energy of visible light, and organized them in a timely fashion, showing how longer exposures help improve the outlook.
The gamma rays of the moon are impressive, yet the sun shines in gamma rays with energies of over a billion electron volumes. The lower energy cosmic rays do not reach the sun, because its strong magnetic field acts as a shield against them. Energy cosmic rays can move through this magnetic screen and hit the atmosphere of the sun, which produces gamma rays that can reach the Space Telescope of the gamma rays Close.
Pictures from ours @NASAFermi A space telescope is a reminder that astronauts on the Moon will need to withstand gamma radiation on the lunar surface. See how these observations help us prepare for a sustainable lunar presence with ours #Artemis missions: https://t.co/wZUgxJ1iSV pic.twitter.com/GoqP5VRWl7
– NASA (@NASA) August 16, 2019
The gamma ray moon does not show phases in a monthly cycle, but its brightness changes over time. According to Close LAT data, the brightness of the moon varies about 20 percent over the 11-year cycle. NASA says that variations in the intensity of the sun's magnetic field during the cycle can change the rate of cosmic rays that reach the moon and alter the production of gamma rays.
As NASA prepares to send humans to the moon by 2024 through the Artemis program, it is important to understand how the lunar environment could impact future missions. These gamma ray observations demonstrate that astronauts on the moon will need protection from the same cosmic rays that generate this high energy radiation. With these observations, NASA can improve space shoes and educate future astronauts on the dangers of gamma radiation in years to come.
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