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The eerie, hellish glow coming from the Moon may seem unreal in this image, since it’s invisible to our eyes. But instruments that detect gamma rays tell us it’s real. More than just a grainy, red picture, it’s a vivid reminder that there’s more going on than meets human eyes.
It’s also a reminder that any humans that visit the Moon need to be protected from this high-energy radiation.
NASA - Fermi - Gamma-Ray - Space - Telescope
NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope captured these images of the Moon’s gamma rays. In this part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the Moon is actually brighter than the Sun. That’s because the Sun produces most of its energy in other parts of the spectrum, though it does emit some gamma rays, especially during solar flares.
Most gamma rays in our Solar System come from distant sources like quasars and active galactic nuclei (AGN.) The Moon is an indirect source of gamma radiation, and produces gamma rays through its interaction with cosmic rays.
Cosmic - Rays - Type - Radiation - Part
Cosmic rays are a type of high-energy radiation that for the most part is produced outside our Solar System. They’re produced by things like supernovae and active galactic nuclei. When cosmic rays strike matter, like the surface of the Moon in this instance, they create gamma rays.
An artist’s concept of an active galactic nuclei hosting an energetic blazar. Active galacitc nuclei are one source of cosmic rays. When those rays strike the Moon, gamma rays are created. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab.
Scientists - Italy - National - Institute - Nuclear
Two scientists at Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Mario Nicola Mazziotta and Francesco Loparco, have been studying the Moon’s gamma radiation as a means to understand cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are fast-moving particles, and they gain their acceleration from their sources, like the aforementioned supernovae and AGN.
“Cosmic rays are mostly protons accelerated by some of the most energetic phenomena...
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