The Atmosphere of the Moon

  • Michael Mendillo
Conference paper


The possible existence of a lunar atmosphere has both fascinated and challenged astronomers for hundreds of years. Galileo searched for evidence of clouds, and Kepler imagined an Earth-like climate. Landings during the Apollo era brought instruments that measured a weak atmospheric pressure. Decades later, new spectrographic and imaging instruments detected sodium and potassium gas that extended to surprisingly large distances, making the Moon’s gaseous environment appear as comet-like. The sources of the lunar atmosphere involve the impact of sunlight, solar wind plasma and meteors upon the surface to release atoms and perhaps molecules. Solar radiation and the gravitational influence of the Earth play dramatic roles in the subsequent evolution of the lunar atmosphere.


Solar Wind Solar Wind Plasma Meteor Shower Lunar Eclipse Occultation Experiment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Berry, A: 1961, A Short History 01 Astronomy, Dover Pub. Inc., New York.Google Scholar
  2. Cremonese, G. and Verani, S.: 1997, ‘High Resolution Observations of the Sodium Emission from the Moon’, Adv. Space Res. 19, 1561–1569.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Hunten, D. M., Kozlowski, R. W. H., and Sprague, A. L.: 1992, ‘A Possible Meteor Shower on the Moon’, Geophys. Res. Lett. 18, 2101–2104.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Mendillo, M., Baumgardner, J., and Wilson, J.: 1999, ‘Observational Test for the Solar Wind Origin of the Moon’s Extended Sodium Atmosphere’, Icarus 137, 13–23.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Potter, A. E. and Morgan, T. H.: 1998, ‘Discovery of Sodium and Potassium Vapor in the Atmosphere of the Moon’, Science 241, 675–680.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Smith, S. M., Wilson, J. K., Baumgardner, J., and Mendillo, M.: 1999, ‘Discovery of the Distant Sodium Tail and its Enhancement Following the Leonid Meteor Shower’, Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 1649–1652.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Smith, S. M., Wilson, J. K., Baumgardner, J., and Mendillo, M.: 2001, ‘Monitoring the Moon’s Transient Atmosphere with an All-Sky Imager’, Adv. Space Res. (in press).Google Scholar
  8. Sprague, A L., Kozlowski, W. H., Hunten, D. M., Wells, W. K., and Grosse, F. A: 1992, ‘The Sodium and Potassium Atmosphere of the Moon and Its Interaction with the Surface’, Icarus 96, 27–42.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Stern, S. A: 1999, ‘The Lunar Atmosphere: History, Status, Current Problems, and Context’, Rev. Geophys. 37,453–491.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Tyler, A. L., Kozlowski, R. W. H., and Hunten, D. M.: 1988, ‘Observations of Sodium in the Tenuous Lunar Atmosphere’, Geophys. Res. Lett. 15, 1141–1144.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Verani, S. C., Benn, C., and Cremonese, G.: 1998, ‘Meteor Stream Effects on the Lunar Sodium Atmosphere’, Planet. Space Sci. 46, 1003–1006.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Wilson, J. K., Smith, S. M., Baumgardner, J., and Mendillo, M.: 1999, ‘Modeling an Enhancement of the Extended Lunar Atmosphere during the Leonid Meteor Shower of 1998’, Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 1645–1648.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Mendillo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Astronomy and Center for Space PhysicsBoston UniversityBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations