Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mihaly Horanyi

Second Advisor

Scott Robertson

Third Advisor

Tobin Munsat


The Moon, lacking an atmosphere and a global magnetic field, is directly exposed to both solar ultraviolet radiation and a variety of ambient plasmas. On the lunar dayside, a photoelectron sheath develops and the surface typically charges positively since the photoemission current is at least an order-of-magnitude greater than any ambient current. This sheath dominates the near-surface plasma environment and controls the charging, levitation and transport of micron-sized dust grains. In this thesis, we first model the lunar near-surface plasma environment via a one-dimensional particle-in-cell code. The sheath potential, electric field and plasma densities are presented over a wide range of plasma parameters. Additionally, the charging and transport of micron- and sub-micron sized dust grains is modeled via a test-particle approach in an attempt to explain Apollo-era observations of lunar dust dynamics. Secondly, we present a comparison of the particle-in-cell results with theoretical, kinetic derivations of the lunar photoelectron sheath. We extend previous theories to include the presence of a κ-distribution for the solar wind electrons. Finally, we present a comparison of in-situ measurements of the lunar photoelectron sheet in the terrestrial plasma sheet by the Lunar Prospector Electron Reflectometer with particle-in-cell simulations to confirm the presence of non-monotonic sheath potentials above the Moon. Future work in all three sections, (simulation, theory and observation) is presented as a guide for continuing research.