3 years ago

Evidence for a Localised Source of the Argon in the Lunar Exosphere.

Simon K. Beaumont, Richard J. Massey, Rick C. Elphic, Jacob A. Kegerreis, Luis F. Teodoro, Vincent R. Eke

We perform the first tests of various proposed explanations for observed features of the Moon's argon exosphere, including models of: spatially varying surface interactions; a source that reflects the lunar near-surface potassium distribution; and temporally varying cold trap areas. Measurements from the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) and the Lunar Atmosphere Composition Experiment (LACE) are used to test whether these models can reproduce the data. The spatially varying surface interactions hypothesized in previous work cannot reproduce the persistent argon enhancement observed over the western maria. They also fail to match the observed local time of the near-sunrise peak in argon density, which is the same for the highland and mare regions, and is well reproduced by simple surface interactions with a ubiquitous desorption energy of 28 kJ/mol. A localised source can explain the observations, with a trade-off between an unexpectedly localised source or an unexpectedly brief lifetime of argon atoms in the exosphere. To match the observations, a point-like source requires source and loss rates of ~$1.9\times10^{21}$ atoms/s. A more diffuse source, weighted by the near-surface potassium, requires much higher rates of ~$1.1\times10^{22}$ atoms/s, corresponding to a mean lifetime of just 1.4 lunar days. We do not address the mechanism for producing a localised source, but demonstrate that this appears to be the only model that can reproduce the observations. Large, seasonally varying cold traps could explain the long-term fluctuation in the global argon density observed by LADEE, but not that by LACE.

Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1612.02414

DOI: arXiv:1612.02414v2

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