Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics

First Advisor

Mihaly Horanyi

Second Advisor

Sascha Kempf

Third Advisor

Fran Bagenal

Fourth Advisor

Zoltan Sternovsky

Fifth Advisor

Hsiang-Wen Hsu

Abstract

Planetary bodies throughout the solar system are continually bombarded by dust particles, largely originating from cometary activities and asteroidal collisions. Surfaces of bodies with thick atmospheres, such as Venus, Earth, Mars and Titan are mostly protected from incoming dust impacts as these particles ablate in their atmospheres as `shooting stars'. However, the majority of bodies in the solar system have no appreciable atmosphere and their surfaces are directly exposed to the flux of high speed dust grains. Impacts onto solid surfaces in space generate charged and neutral gas clouds, as well as solid secondary ejecta dust particles. Gravitationally bound ejecta clouds forming dust exospheres were recognized by in situ dust instruments around the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and had not yet been observed near bodies with refractory regolith surfaces before NASA's Lunar Dust and Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission.

In this thesis, we first present the measurements taken by the Lunar Dust Explorer (LDEX), aboard LADEE, which discovered a permanently present, asymmetric dust cloud surrounding the Moon. The global characteristics of the lunar dust cloud are discussed as a function of a variety of variables such as altitude, solar longitude, local time, and lunar phase. These results are compared with models for lunar dust cloud generation. Second, we present an analysis of the groupings of impacts measured by LDEX, which represent detections of dense ejecta plumes above the lunar surface. These measurements are put in the context of understanding the response of the lunar surface to meteoroid bombardment and how to use other airless bodies in the solar system as detectors for their local meteoroid environment. Third, we present the first in-situ dust measurements taken over the lunar sunrise terminator. Having found no excess of small grains in this region, we discuss its implications for the putative population of electrostatically lofted dust.

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