For over 2 billion years, bits of atmosphere have traveled to lunar surface, data suggest
Osaka University, NASA
Life on Earth may have made its mark on the moon billions of years before Neil Armstrong’s famous first step.
Observations by Japan’s moon-orbiting Kaguya spacecraft suggest that oxygen atoms from Earth’s upper atmosphere bombard the moon’s surface for a few days each month. This oxygen onslaught began in earnest around 2.4 billion years ago when photosynthetic microbes first flourished (SN Online: 9/8/15), planetary scientist Kentaro Terada of Osaka University in Japan and colleagues propose January 30 in Nature Astronomy.
The oxygen atoms begin their incredible journey in the upper atmosphere, where they are ionized by ultraviolet radiation, the researchers suggest. Electric fields or plasma waves accelerate the oxygen ions into the magnetic cocoon that envelops Earth. One side of that magnetosphere stretches away from the sun