Fermi Observations of γ-Ray Emission from the Moon

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We report on the detection of high-energy γ-ray emission from theMoon during the first 24 months of observations by the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT). This emission comes from particle cascades produced by cosmicray (CR) nuclei and electrons interacting with the lunar surface. The differential spectrum of the Moon is soft and can be described as a log-parabolic function with an effective cutoff at 2–3 GeV, while the average integral flux measured with the LAT from the beginning of observations in 2008 August to the end of 2010 August is F(>100 MeV) = (1.04 ± 0.01 [statistical error] ± 0.1 [systematic error]) × 10−6 cm−2 s−1. This flux is about a factor 2–3 higher than that observed between 1991 and 1994 by the EGRET experiment on board the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, F(>100 MeV)≈5×10−7 cm−2 s−1, when solar activity was relatively high. The higher γ-ray flux measured by Fermi is consistent with the deep solar minimum conditions during the first 24 months of the mission, which reduced effects of heliospheric modulation, and thus increased the heliospheric flux of Galactic CRs. A detailed comparison of the light curve with McMurdo Neutron Monitor rates suggests a correlation of the trends. The Moon and the Sun are so far the only known bright emitters of γ-rays with fast celestial motion. Their paths across the sky are projected onto the Galactic center and high Galactic latitudes as well as onto other areas crowded with high-energy γ-ray sources. Analysis of the lunar and solar emission may thus be important for studies of weak and transient sources near the ecliptic


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