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Lunar exospheric argon modeling

Abstract : Argon is one of the few known constituents of the lunar exosphere. The surface-based mass spectrometer Lunar Atmosphere Composition Experiment (LACE) deployed during the Apollo 17 mission first detected argon, and its study is among the subjects of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) and Lunar Atmospheric and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission investigations. We performed a detailed Monte Carlo simulation of neutral atomic argon that we use to better understand its transport and storage across the lunar surface. We took into account several loss processes: ionization by solar photons, charge-exchange with solar protons, and cold trapping as computed by recent LRO/Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) mapping of Permanently Shaded Regions (PSRs). Recycling of photo-ions and solar radiation acceleration are also considered. We report that (i) contrary to previous assumptions, charge exchange is a loss process as efficient as photo-ionization, (ii) the PSR cold-trapping flux is comparable to the ionization flux (photo-ionization and charge-exchange), and (iii) solar radiation pressure has negligible effect on the argon density, as expected. We determine that the release of 2.6 × 1028 atoms on top of a pre-existing argon exosphere is required to explain the maximum amount of argon measured by LACE. The total number of atoms (1.0 × 1029) corresponds to ∼6700 kg of argon, 30% of which (∼1900 kg) may be stored in the cold traps after 120 days in the absence of space weathering processes. The required population is consistent with the amount of argon that can be released during a High Frequency Teleseismic (HFT) Event, i.e. a big, rare and localized moonquake, although we show that LACE could not distinguish between a localized and a global event. The density of argon measured at the time of LACE appears to have originated from no less than four such episodic events. Finally, we show that the extent of the PSRs that trap argon, 0.007% of the total lunar surface, is consistent with the presence of adsorbed water in such PSRs.
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Submitted on : Sunday, May 17, 2015 - 10:58:59 AM
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Cesare Grava, Jean-Yves Chaufray, K.D. Retherford, G.R. Gladstone, T.K. Greathouse, et al.. Lunar exospheric argon modeling. Icarus, Elsevier, 2015, 255, pp.135-147. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2014.09.029⟩. ⟨insu-01152421⟩



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