Lunar Atmosphere
Does the Moon Have an Atmosphere?

In this section we are going to explore this possibility. John Lear has often said and maintains the belief that there is a thin, but tangeble atmosphere on the Lunar surface that is possible to breath for short periods. Though this may be impossible to prove, or believe for some, we shall attempt to gather evidence with this in mind. At the end it is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions...

01) Lunar Atmosphere Data Sheet - NASA
02) Cloud Above the Crater Alphonsus - 1956
03) Lunar Weather Report: 1966
04) Atmosphere: Extensive and of High Scientific Interest
05) Plume of Vapor or Dust near Endymion 1946
06) Is the Moon Still Alive?
07) Transient Phenomena
08) Russian Scientist says Planets' Atmospheres are Changing
09) Moon's Extended Sodium Atmosphere
10) The Corona Effect
11) Clouds In Crater - Apollo Image #
12) Smart 1 Impact Raises Dust Plume
13) SMART-1 Impact Flash And Debris: Crash Scene Investigation On The Moon
14) Lunar Sodium Atmosphere: A Study as Observed Through Four Lunar Eclipses
15) True Color of the Lunar Sky
16) Moon Fountains - A Yarn from NASA
17) A Dynamic Fountain Model for Lunar Dust 
18) Surveyor Observations of Lunar Horizon-Glow
19) Don't Breathe the Moondust
20) Lunar Sunrise Sunset Crater Rays
21) Moon Storms
22) The Moon and the Magnetotail

Lunar Atmosphere Data Sheet

Diurnal temperature range: >100 K to <400 K  (roughly -250 F to +250 F)
Total mass of atmosphere:  ~25,000 kg
Surface pressure (night): 3 x 10-15 bar  (2 x 10-12 torr)
Abundance at surface: 2 x 105 particles/cm3

Estimated Composition (particles per cubic cm):
    Helium 4 (4He) - 40,000 ; Neon 20 (20Ne) - 40,000 ; Hydrogen (H2) - 35,000
    Argon 40 (40Ar) - 30,000 ; Neon 22 (22Ne) - 5,000 ; Argon 36 (36Ar) - 2,000 
    Methane - 1000 ; Ammonia - 1000 ; Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - 1000 
    Trace Oxygen (O+), Aluminum (Al+), Silicon (Si+) 
    Possible Phosphorus (P+), Sodium (Na+), Magnesium (Mg+)

Composition of the tenuous lunar atmosphere is poorly known and variable, these are estimates of the upper limits of the nighttime ambient atmosphere composition.  Daytime levels were difficult to measure due to heating and outgassing of Apollo surface experiments.

SOURCE: NASA Lunar Fact Sheet

So Right from the start we can see that YES there is an atmosphere, albeit tenuous according to NASA's data.

Cloud Above the Crater Alphonsus


For years scientists believed there was no trace of gas or an atmosphere on the moon. Now there is some evidence of an atmosphere, though it may be almost too thin to measure. During an occultation of the Crab nebula, astronomers using a radio telescope at Cambridge University detected a slight bending of the rays of the nebula. This deflection could have been due to a thin lunar atmosphere.

In 1956 observers reported what appeared to be a cloud above the crater Alphonsus. In 1958 a Soviet astronomer, Nikolai A. Kozyrev, announced an apparent eruption from the crater. He took spectrograms, which indicated the presence of rarefied gases. His findings caused a revival of debates on the volcanic versus the meteoric origin of moon craters. Many scientists believed that Kozyrev had seen not a true volcanic eruption but a puff of gas and dust from below the surface, probably caused by heat. Some small craters within Alphonsus have “black halos” believed to be deposits of material that have filled the rills along which they are located. 

Source Encyclopedia Britanica - Article-204895


This reference is no longer at that link...

Using the Wayback Machine of Archives on that url gets me this...

We're sorry, access to  has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt. 

Lunar Weather Report: 1966

Clear today, no chance of rain or lightning storms.....


Extreme weather warning... Hurricane Endymion moving in... 

LICKOBSA Lick Observatory, 1946 January 17d 07h 51m UT
The two images above are clips from two Lick Observatory photographs taken days apart in 1946. The large black crater is Endymion... the clips are located at the 1 O'Clock position on the original images which are available below. As you can see the second image is obscured by a cloud of some form, that covers a large area

Photo Source John Lear's Moon Pictures on ATS

Atmosphere: Extensive and of High Scientific Interest


Though the Moon is surrounded by a vacuum higher than is usually created in laboratories on Earth, its atmosphere is extensive and of high scientific interest. During the two-week daytime period, atoms and molecules are ejected by a variety of processes from the lunar surface, ionized by the solar wind, and then driven by electromagnetic effects as a collisionless plasma. The position of the Moon in its orbit determines the behaviour of the atmosphere...

In addition to the near-surface gases and the extensive sodium-potassium cloud detected around the Moon (see the section Effects of impacts and volcanism below), a small amount of dust circulates within a few metres of the lunar surface. This is believed to be suspended electrostatically...

Source Encyclopedia Britanica - Article-54205

Plume of Vapor or Dust
This "small" Plume or Cloud is very interesting as it clearly shows billowing cloud like effect and seems to be rising from the surface. This is made evident by the "topping off" effect. Is this caused by reaching the upper limit of the atmosphere? A jet stream like effect? A lunar wind? There is no absolute way to know at this time, but the cloud speaks for itself

Photo Source John Lear's Moon Pictures on ATS

Is the Moon Still Alive?

Nasa Science News Nov. 9, 2006: 

Conventional wisdom says the Moon is dead. Conventional wisdom may be wrong.

The site is a strange-looking geological feature named "Ina" in Lacus Felicitatis, a lake of ancient, hardened lava located at lunar coordinates 19o N, 5o E. "Ina was first noticed by Apollo astronauts," says Schultz. Pictured below, "it's shaped like a letter D about two kilometers wide."

Evidence about Ina points to recent activity:

Ina is bright and has odd colors. Rocks and dirt on the surface of the Moon grow darker as time passes. The darkening agent is space weather: a nonstop rain of cosmic rays, solar radiation and meteoroids hit the Moon and darken the ground. (The mechanisms are too detailed to discuss here, but the effect is mostly uncontroversial.) Ina, however, is bright, as if fresh dirt has been overturned and newly exposed. Furthermore, the colors of Ina, measured by a spectrometer on the Clementine spacecraft, are similar to the colors of the Moon's youngest craters. Yet Ina is not an impact crater.

Above: A false-color composite photo of Ina and a nearby young crater. Blue denotes freshly exposed titanium basalts, while green traces immature (relatively unweathered) soils.

It all adds up to outgassing: "We believe there has been a rapid release of gasses, blowing off surface deposits and exposing less weathered materials," explains Schultz. This is not necessarily a sign of active volcanism. "The appearance of the surface at Ina does not indicate an explosive release of magma, which would create visible rays of ejecta surrounding a central crater." Instead, the gasses may have been trapped below ground for millions or billions of years and released by, say, a recent moonquake. This interpretation is appealing because Ina is located at the intersection of two linear valleys or rilles -- like many geologically active areas on Earth.

"Over the years," he adds, "amateur astronomers have reported puffs or flashes of light coming from the Moon's surface." While many professional astronomers insisted the moon was inactive, the amateur sightings kept open a window of doubt. 

SOURCE: NASA News Nov 9, 2006

Transient Phenomena

Blasts of gas from deep beneath the lunar surface are giving the Moon a surprisingly fresh-faced look, suggests a new study...

While the current study did not search for gas emissions, NASA's recent Lunar Prospector mission did find small amounts of radon and polonium gas on the Moon’s surface. These are thought to accompany larger volumes of other gases, such as carbon dioxide, that are often associated with volcanic activity...

If the gas turns out to contain hydrogen, methane or water vapour, she says it could be used for fuel or drinking water on future lunar bases...


To date, the closest researchers have come to examining intact lunar bedrock was in 1972, when members of NASA's Apollo 17 mission drilled less than 3 metres into the dense soil. The fresh-looking features could provide direct access to the otherwise buried rock layers because the gas is thought to have cleared away between 3 to 5 metres of lunar soil in a depression that already had a thin layer of soil.

“Understanding this interface between lunar soil and bedrock will be important for mining and habitation if we ever get to that point,” Taylor says.

The findings could also explain mysterious changes in the brightness and colour of patches of the lunar surface that have been observed for centuries.

Outgassing could cause some of these so-called "transient lunar phenomena", say the researchers. But they add that falling rocks and debris and impacts from space rocks could also account for some of the observations.

Until the bare spots are investigated further, their discovery seems to raise more questions than answers. “It makes us wonder what our nearest neighbour is all about and what other secrets are waiting to be discovered,” Pieters says. 

SOURCE: New Scientist news service 08 November 2006

Russian Scientist says Planets' Atmospheres are Changing

Earth's moon is growing an atmosphere Also, the moon is growing an atmosphere that's made up of a compound Dmitriev refers to as ''Natrium.'' Dmitriev says that, around the moon, there is this 6,000- kilometre- deep layer of Natrium that wasn't there before. And we're having this kind of change in Earth's atmosphere in the upper levels, where HO gas is forming that wasn't there before; it simply did not exist in the quantity that it does now. It's not related to global warming and it's not related to CFCs or fluorocarbon emissions or any of that stuff. It's just showing up.


Moon's Extended Sodium Atmosphere
The outer limits of the lunar sodium exosphere.

A new wide-angle coronagraphic-type imaging system used for the lunar eclipse of 16 July 2000 resulted in detections of the lunar sodium exosphere out to 20 lunar radii, approximately twice the size recorded with narrower fields of view during previous eclipses.

SOURCE: Boston University
PDF File on full reportFull Report on PDF File

The Corona Effect
Dust on the Horizon
Click on Image for Larger Picture.  Courtesy of NASA/Jpl 
This rather spectacular picture of the moon was taken by the Clementine 1 spacecraft and the light that is lighting up the moon is actually light reflected from the Earth! You can also see Venus in the distance.The effect is caused by dust in the lunar atmosphere.

See Also NASA pages...
Moon Storms
Moon Fountains

See Also...
Clementine Moon Glow



Clouds In Crater
Apollo Image
More Cloud Cover on the Moon ~ Apollo 8 ~ AS8-13-2225
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Join the live discussion on Anomalies on the Moon and on Mars 
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John Lear's Moon Pictures on ATS

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