NASA spacecraft spots dust cloud around the moon

The moon — meaning our moon — has a cloud of dust around it described as lopsided, and it is confounding researchers. Apollo 15 and 17 crews had observed a glow around the moon that was thought to be due to dust, but this latest dust observation — which is thanks to NASA's LADEE — is said to be different. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is a spacecraft with a dedicated "dust instrument", and it made its observations while on a low-altitude orbit mission.

It is known this dust cloud is different than the one spotted by astronauts because the density is said to be too low for visible observation to be possible. Furthermore, the space agency's researchers think it possible that other moons could feature the same dust cloud.

The reasons for the dust cloud is thought to be comet particle collisions, a belief that is based up on various observations. For example, an irregular shape of the observed dust cloud pointed toward the dust particles impacts, and the rate of impacts jumped during the Geminid meteor shower a few months ago.

When these so-called "dust streams" hit the moon, they end up causing secondary dust particles, and resulting permanent dust clouds. Back in the 90s, it was discovered that Jupiter's own moons have similar dust clouds around them. The full study can be read at Nature.