Imagine the human eyes having the capability to see gamma rays and if this were to ever happen then we could see the Moon shine brighter than the Sun. NASA has its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope use the same concept to see the neighbors present in space for the past few decades. The gamma-ray observations are not that detailed or sensitive that it can capture the Moon’s disk, surface features, or even its shape. On the other hand, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) can identify the intense glow centered on the Moon. According to researchers Mario Nicola Mazziotta and Francesco Loparco from National Institute of Nuclear Physics, the gamma-ray glow observed on the Moon can help better understand the other types of radiation generated in space such as the fast-moving units known as cosmic rays.
The energetic phenomena are known to accelerate the cosmic rays that contain protons. Some of the energetic phenomena in the Universe include blast waves of exploding stars and jets created during the fall of matter into black holes. The magnetic fields have a huge influence on the electrically charged particles but it is something uncommon for the Moon. The touching of low-energy cosmic rays onto the Moon’s surface helps transform it into a handy space-based particle detector. The regolith present on the Moon tends to react with cosmic rays and produce gamma-ray emission. Even though a high amount of gamma rays are absorbed by the Moon, there are some that escape into space. Fermi LAT lunar observations have shown to improve on a daily basis while on the mission. The researchers captured data for gamma rays with energies of 31 million electron volts and studied it over time.
If the energies were to overtake then the Moon could never have its monthly cycle of phases and would always look full. The Sun shines brighter than the Moon with the gamma-ray energies of more than 1 billion electron volts. However, as per the Fermi data, the Moon’s brightness varies by about 20% over the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle. The changes in magnetic field intensity of the Sun affect the cosmic rays reaching the Moon followed by gamma-ray production.
Likewise, the Moon needs to be studied well before the Artemis program has humans transported to the lunar surface by 2024. The gamma-ray observations can help understand the protection required from the cosmic rays and also the other environmental hazards.
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