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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
This drawing shows how individual molecules may move near the surface of the Moon to form an atmosphere.
NASA

The Lunar Atmosphere

People used to think that moons such as the Earth's moon had no atmosphere whatsoever. Now, however, measurements have shown that most of these moons are surrounded by a *very* thin region of molecules which can *almost* be called an atmosphere. Such is the case with the Moon.

The atmosphere may come from a couple of places, one place is outgassing or the release of gases from deep within the Moon's interior.

Another source, as shown in this diagram, are molecules which are loosened from the surface when other molecules from space hit the ground. These molecules may migrate across the surface of the Moon, to colder regions where they re-freeze into the ground. Or they may fly off into space. This is one way lunar water may be formed.

Molecules from space come from the solar wind. Because its surface is protected by neither an atmosphere nor a magnetosphere, the Moon is constantly exposed to the solar wind. These molecules get buried in the Moon's surface. Eventually scientists on Earth will understand more about a process, called nuclear fusion, which is another way create energy. Then these molecules buried in the Moon's surface may become an important source of fuel for energy.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA