The basic model is that as the solar wind flows by the limb of the Moon, the light electrons are more mobile and can diffuse away from the solar wind protons and into the shadow of craters. This electron-ion separation process, called ambipolar diffusion, can generate an electric field of several hundred volts in the lunar environment. It is one of the basic plasma physics processes that was identified by Irving Langmuir in 1929.
Naturally, the story was picked up by the Electric Universe (EU) supporters and mentioned on the Thunderbolts Forum: Polar Moon Craters Electrified?
Note that EU supporters regard this discovery as some kind of success for EU claims. But there are a number of items one should note about the release and the EU response.
- The electric fields mentioned in the story were determined by mathematical models. EU supporters routinely dismiss mathematical models, particularly when it conflicts with their claims such as stars or galaxies being powered by external electric currents.
- The model requires the solar wind to consist of outbound electrons and ions, contrary to the Electric Sun models (such as the one I call the Solar Capacitor model).
- The planetary scientists knew to look for this process in the solar wind's interaction with the Moon, which is why they were using a mathematical model. This contradicts the popular EU claim that astronomers ignore electrical effects in space. Astronomers have known of numerous astrophysical scenarios where electric fields can form since the 1920s (see The REAL Electric Universe).
- EU supporters make no mention of the work done by planetary scientists as far back as the early 1970s about electric fields induced in the lunar surface [2,3,4,5,6,7]. Instead EU supporters seem to focus on recent announcements, spinning the story as if the mainstream astronomical community is finally coming around to their point of view, when in fact these newer studies properly reference the older work.
In addition to ambipolar diffusion, mentioned in the podcast, that becomes important near the lunar terminator, solar ultraviolet photons and solar wind protons readily ionize lunar surface material. When this happens to light dust particles, the electrostatic repulsion between the dust and the surface can be sufficient to levitate the dust into a small lunar atmosphere. The electric fields from this process are rather small, producing electrostatic potential differences between the lunar surface and 'infinity' on the order of hundreds of volts. However, this is more than enough to damage semiconductor electronics in sensitive equipment.
- I. Langmuir. The Interaction of Electron and Positive Ion Space Charges in Cathode Sheaths. Physical Review, 33:954–989, June 1929. doi: 10.1103/PhysRev.33.954.
- K. Knott. Electrostatic charging of the lunar surface and possible consequences. Journal of Geophysical Research, 78:3172–3175, 1973. doi: 10.1029/JA078i016p03172.
- R. H. Manka and F. C. Michel. Lunar ion energy spectra and surface potential. In Lunar and Planetary Science Conference Proceedings, volume 4 of Lunar and Planetary Science Conference Proceedings, pages 2897–2908, 1973.
- J. W. Freeman and M. Ibrahim. Lunar electric ﬁelds, surface potential and associated plasma sheaths. Moon, 14:103–114, September 1975. doi: 10.1007/BF00562976.
- N. Borisov and U. Mall. The structure of the double layer behind the Moon. Journal of Plasma Physics, 67:277–299, May 2002. doi: 10.1017/S0022377802001654.
- J. S. Halekas, R. P. Lin, and D. L. Mitchell. Inferring the scale height of the lunar nightside double layer. Geophysical Research Letters, 30(21):210000–1, November 2003. doi: 10.1029/2003GL018421.
- J. S. Halekas, S. D. Bale, D. L. Mitchell, and R. P. Lin. Electrons and magnetic ﬁelds in the lunar plasma wake. Journal of Geophysical Research (Space Physics), 110:7222–+, July 2005. doi: 10.1029/2004JA010991.
In other words, here is another example, going back several decades, where astronomers have examined electric fields in space, and are still considering them today, contrary to the claims of the EU supporters.
I've yet to find any evidence that any EU supporter has predicted the mechanism, or estimated values of the currents and/or voltages created, prior to these publications. Without such documentation, it would appear the EU 'theorists' are simply trying to take credit for the work of others.