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From our Expert Voices conversation on what we could learn from a new human trip to the Moon.

Lunar swirls are bright, looping streaks on the Moon. Their origin is unknown, but since they are associated with magnetic anomalies on the Moon's surface, they are one of our solar system's best laboratories for studying complex electromagnetic effects.

  • On the nightside of the Moon, the shortage of positive ions from the sun can cause a dangerous buildup of negative static electricity on an astronaut's suit or robotic equipment. The magnetic field's strength in these places may be exploited to protect astronauts and equipment during surface operations.
  • Since the magnetic fields of lunar swirls can deflect charged particles, they are protected from the solar wind and weathered almost exclusively by micrometeorites. If the swirls have been protecting the surface of the Moon since early in its existence, they would be a prime location to sample the ancient solar wind.
  • Swirls are also ideal places to study the presence of water on the Moon's surface, and perhaps even to extract it. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper measured a global layer of water only a few molecules thick and found swirls to be depleted of water relative to their surroundings.

The bottom line: A mission to a lunar swirl will help answer questions about solar wind, space weathering, and electromagnetic interactions of interest to both planetary science and the broader scientific community.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

57 mins ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Tony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

At least 3 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least three people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. Officials in Tonga confirmed three deaths in the country's first official statement since the crisis began.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Charted: GOP surged as Biden slumped

Expand chart
Reproduced from Gallup. (Independents were asked their party leaning.) Chart: Axios Visuals

Gallup polling found a huge shift in party preference over the course of 2021, from a 9-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a 5-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.

Why it matters: It's the biggest swing in one calendar year for Gallup's 30 years of tracking.

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