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Keywords:

  • Moon;
  • albedo particles;
  • cosmic rays;
  • solar cycle

[1] Neutrons emitted from the Moon are produced by the impact of galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) within the regolith. GCRs are high-energy particles capable of smashing atomic nuclei in the lunar regolith and producing a shower of energetic protons, neutrons and other subatomic particles. Secondary particles that are ejected out of the regolith become “albedo” particles. The neutron albedo has been used to study the hydrogen content of the lunar regolith, which motivates our study of albedo protons. In principle, the albedo protons should vary as a function of the input GCR source and possibly as a result of surface composition and properties. During the LRO mission, the total detection rate of albedo protons between 60 MeV and 150 MeV has been declining since 2009 in parallel with the decline in the galactic cosmic ray flux, which validates the concept of an albedo proton source. On the other hand, the average yield of albedo protons has been increasing as the galactic cosmic ray spectrum has been hardening, consistent with a disproportionately stronger modulation of lower energy GCRs as solar activity increases. We construct the first map of the normalized albedo proton emission rate from the lunar surface to look for any albedo variation that correlates with surface features. The map is consistent with a spatially uniform albedo proton yield to within statistical uncertainties.