In the first installment of 2018, our resident experimental PDF discusses retrofitting our planetary simulation cryovacuum chamber to simulate a nearby environment: that found in the permanently shadowed regions of our own moon. An image of our first run can be seen above.
By Dr. Paul Godin
One of the experiments happening at the PVL is called the Aniu Investigation, which has the goal of testing to see if frost could be detected in shadowed regions of the moon using reflected starlight (Lyman-alpha radiation, 121 nm). Unfortunately, the moon is quite far away from York University and expensive to get to, so we’ll need to simulate the moon in the lab.
To build a moon in the lab we’ll need the following “ingredients”:
1. A stainless-steel vacuum chamber.
2. A vacuum pump.
3. Liquid nitrogen.
4. A “cold finger” heat exchanger
5. Simulated lunar regolith
6. A UV lamp.
Once we have all the above we can start building our moon. First, is to attach the vacuum pump to the vacuum chamber. The pump will remove the air from the chamber, allowing us to simulate the vacuum of space. Pumping out the air also has some other benefits from an experimental side; the lack of air in the chamber increases its thermal stability since there’s no longer a medium in which heat can be conducted/convected through the chamber. This means that temperature fluctuations in the lab are unlikely to be felt inside the chamber. A second benefit is air absorbs Lyman-alpha radiation quite strongly, meaning if we left the air inside the chamber the “starlight” would be absorbed before it even hit the surface of our moon.