Lunar radiation environment and space weathering from the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER)

Academic Article


  • The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) measures linear energy transfer by Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) and Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs) on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Mission in a circular, polar lunar orbit. GCR fluxes remain at the highest levels ever observed during the space age. One of the largest SEP events observed by CRaTER during the LRO mission occurred on June 7, 2011. We compare model predictions by the Earth‐Moon‐Mars Radiation Environment Module (EMMREM) for both dose rates from GCRs and SEPs during this event with results from CRaTER. We find agreement between these models and the CRaTER dose rates, which together demonstrate the accuracy of EMMREM, and its suitability for a real‐time space weather system. We utilize CRaTER to test forecasts made by the Relativistic Electron Alert System for Exploration (REleASE), which successfully predicts the June 7th event. At the maximum CRaTER‐observed GCR dose rate (∼11.7 cGy/yr where Gy is a unit indicating energy deposition per unit mass, 1 Gy = 1 J/kg), GCRs deposit ∼88 eV/molecule in water over 4 billion years, causing significant change in molecular composition and physical structure (e.g., density, color, crystallinity) of water ice, loss of molecular hydrogen, and production of more complex molecules linking carbon and other elements in the irradiated ice. This shows that space weathering by GCRs may be extremely important for chemical evolution of ice on the Moon. Thus, we show comprehensive observations from the CRaTER instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that characterizes the radiation environment and space weathering on the Moon.
  • Authors

  • Schwadron, Nathan
  • Baker, T
  • Blake, B
  • Case, AW
  • Cooper, JF
  • Golightly, M
  • Jordan, A
  • Joyce, C
  • Kasper, J
  • Kozarev, K
  • Mislinski, J
  • Mazur, J
  • Posner, A
  • Rother, O
  • Smith, S
  • Spence, Harlan
  • Townsend, LW
  • Wilson, J
  • Zeitlin, C
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • March 13, 2012
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • n/a
  • End Page

  • n/a
  • Volume

  • 117
  • Issue

  • E12