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Jun 11, 2008
Lunar Dust Levitation
Static electric charge might help to explain the glowing haze sometimes seen rising 100 kilometers above the Moon’s horizon.
In 1998, the Lunar Prospector was launched from Cape Canaveral with gamma-ray spectrometer, alpha particle spectrometer, neutron spectrometer, magnetometer and electron reflectometer instrumentation. During several orbits, the spacecraft detected a surprisingly high voltage change as it passed through the magnetotail extending outward from Earth. The magnetotail is actually a part of the plasma sheath that envelops the Earth. The Moon passes through it once a month at full moon phase and the electric differential was found to occur during that passage.
The Earth is surrounded by a magnetic field that is trapped inside a cometary plasma tail that actually stretches well beyond the Moon's orbit. The Earth's magnetospheric tail points away from the Sun due to the high-speed ions streaming from the Sun.
The movement of the Moon through the ionized plasma affects the materials in the lunar regolith. Electrons accumulate and produce a negative charge on the ultra-fine dust particles, causing them to repel each other and drift off the surface.
Charge differential between the day and night side of the Moon might actually generate an ion “wind” flowing from the negatively charged night side into the more positively charged sunlit side. The negative charge on the bright surface during daylight is moderated by the photoelectric phenomenon, while it tends to build up in the darkness, forming static electricity. The charge variation between the two hemispheres has been measured at more than 1000 volts.