Variation of lunar sodium emission intensity with phase angle


  • A. E. Potter,

  • T. H. Morgan


We report new measurements of the sodium emission intensity seen in a line of sight just above the surface of the Moon. These data show a strong dependence on lunar phase. The emission intensity decreases from a maximum around first quarter (phase angle 90°) to very small values near full Moon (phase angle 0°). This suggests that the rate of sodium vapor production from the lunar surface is largest at the subsolar point and becomes small near the terminator. However, the sodium emission near full Moon falls below that which would be expected for solar photon-driven processes. Since the solar wind flux decreases substantially when the Moon enters the Earth's magnetotail near full Moon, while the global solar photon flux is undiminished, we suggest that solar wind sputtering is the dominant process for sodium production.