Q:

Why does the moon have no atmosphere?

A:

Quick Answer

While the common wisdom that the moon lacks an atmosphere has been part of general knowledge for years, a NASA document released in January 2014 indicates that the moon does have an atmosphere with gases like potassium and sodium which do not appear in the atmosphere of Venus, Mars or Earth. The atmosphere on the moon has much less gas in it; on Earth, the sea-level atmosphere has 10 quintillion molecules per cubic centimeter, while that same cubic centimeter only has 1 million molecules on the moon. So while the lunar atmosphere is quite thin, it nevertheless exists.

Know More

Full Answer

The Apollo 17 mission used the Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment on the lunar surface to analyze what the air was actually like on the moon. This study found minuscule amounts of several different types of molecules and atoms, such as argon, helium and possibly ammonia, carbon dioxide, neon and methane. Researchers on Earth using telescopes designed to block lunar light have captured images of the glow that the potassium and sodium atoms create when they receive energy from the sun. These gases likely came from solar wind particles and high-energy photons, as well as surface material evaporation, material grabbed from meteoroid and comet impact, and gas come from the interior of the moon.

Learn more about Our Moon

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What does terraforming the moon involve?

    A:

    Terraforming the moon is a complicated project that entails providing the moon with a stable atmosphere, adding water to the atmosphere and ensuring the atmosphere is appropriate for humans. While some scientists doubt its feasibility, most agree that it is quite possible in principle.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Why does the moon change colors?

    A:

    The moon appears to change colors sometimes due to the scattering of light through the atmosphere. Moonlight has to pass through more atmosphere when it is on the horizon than when it is higher in the sky. By the time the moonlight is visible, all of the fragments of light on the blue end of the color spectrum have been scattered away by the air molecules, leaving only red, yellow and orange pieces of light.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Why does the moon turn orange?

    A:

    Dust, smoke and pollution particles diffuse moonlight through the atmosphere to make it appear orange, red or yellow as the heavenly object rises or sets above the horizon. The atmosphere is thicker when viewing objects along the horizon rather than overhead, which also makes objects appear redder and larger. NASA calls this a moon illusion because the moon never actually changes color.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Why does the moon appear to take on a colored hue during an eclipse?

    A:

    According to Astronomy Magazine, the moon turns red during a lunar eclipse because it is illuminated by the light that refracts through Earth's atmosphere. While the moon may pass into Earth's umbral shadow, the light that bends around the planet is enough to give its satellite an eerie red pallor.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore