31st Annual Meeting of the DPS, October 1999
Session 38. The Moon and Mercury
Contributed Oral Parallel Session, Wednesday, October 13, 1999, 11:00am-12:00noon, Sala Pietro d'Abano

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[38.03] Enhancement of the Moon’s Sodium Tail Following the Leonid Meteor Shower of 1998.

J. K. Wilson, S. M. Smith, J. Baumgardner, M. Mendillo (Boston University)

We have made the first detections of the distant lunar sodium tail with an all-sky camera on the nights of August 21-22 and November 18-20, 1998. The lunar sodium tail represents the escaping component of the lunar sodium atmosphere, which is generated from the Moon’s regolith by a combination of surface processes. On nights near new Moon, the sodium tail appears in the sky as a spot near the anti-solar point; the location and morphology of this spot are consistent with standard models of the Moon's atmosphere. We interpret the changing brightness of the spot from night to night using a new time-dependent model of the lunar atmosphere, and we find that the atomic sodium escape rate from the Moon temporarily increased by a factor of 2 to 3 during the most intense period of the 1998 Leonid meteor shower on November 16 and 17. This is the most significant meteor-related atmospheric enhancement yet observed, and it may help to quantify the contribution of micrometeor bombardment to the lunar atmosphere.

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The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: jkwilson@bu.edu

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