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According to a report in Discovery News, using the very first direct measurements of the moon's "exosphere" as the moon passed through the streaming tail of Earth's protective magnetic field, researchers were able to watch the short-lived and ever-changing exosphere in the absence of the hot, magnetized solar wind.
Scientists generally believe that the ions that make up the lunar exosphere are generated at the Moon's surface by interaction with solar photons, plasma in the Earth's magnetosphere, or micrometeorites.
The clues pointing to Mercury's shower were discovered in the very thin halo of gases that make up the planet's exosphere, which is under study by NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft.
The researchers said that these neutrons form an exosphere above the corona that decay to a large swarm of equally energetic protons that in turn, expand along the magnetic field that is carried by the expanding solar atmosphere into interplanetary space.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, had been flying at increasingly lower altitudes to study how dust is lifted off the lunar surface and what gases comprise the moon's so-called exosphere - the region of space surrounding the airless moon.
LRO has been conducting science actions and returning unique results on the lunar exosphere.
All the science instruments on-board have been examined by the LADEE team and have been cleared to begin collecting and analyzing the dust in the exosphere, or very thin atmosphere, that surrounds the moon.
The Earth has an exosphere as well, but you have to get out past where the International Space Station orbits before you get to this condition.
Exploring that exosphere will be a $280 million solar and lithium battery - powered spacecraft about the size of a small car -- nearly eight feet (2.
There are five layers of the atmosphere: Troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere -- all having their distinct function, ranging from forming rain, preventing harmful rays, from reflecting radio waves and averting the harmful effects of meteors.
The Moon also experiences electrostatic charging of dust particles, and NASA's scheduled 2013 LADEE mission will search for evidence of whether these form as clouds above the surface or at high altitude in the lunar exosphere.