A new set of computer simulations show that solar storms and associated Coronal Mass Ejections, CMEs, can act like a huge sandblaster on the lunar surface.

NASA said Tuesday that “in addition to removing a surprisingly large amount of material from the lunar surface, this could be a major method of atmospheric loss for planets like Mars that are unprotected by a global magnetic field.”

CME’s are explosions in the Sun’s corona that burst out solar particles of electrically conductive gas called plasma.

The plasma is blown outward from the surface of the sun into space and can be very dangerous.

The authors explained that a strong CME may contain around a billion tons of plasma moving at up to a million miles per hour in a cloud many times the size of Earth.

"We found that when this massive cloud of plasma strikes the moon, it acts like a sandblaster and easily removes volatile material from the surface," said William Farrell, DREAM team lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. "The model predicts 100 to 200 tons of lunar material – the equivalent of 10 dump truck loads – could be stripped off the lunar surface during the typical 2-day passage of a CME."

"Connecting various models together to mimic conditions during solar storms is a major goal of the DREAM project," said Farrel, as this is the first time researchers have attempted to predict the effects of a CME on the moon.

NASA believes that the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, LADEE, a lunar orbiter mission scheduled to launch in 2013 will be able to test their predictions by kicking lunar surface atoms to LADEE’s orbital altitude.

"This huge CME sputtering effect will make LADEE almost like a surface mineralogy explorer, not because LADEE is on the surface, but because during solar storms surface atoms are blasted up to LADEE," said Farrell.

While the moon is potentially at risk of the dense CME driver gas, it is not the only source of concern for scientists as they have been long aware that these solar storms dramatically affect the Earth’s magnetic field and are responsible for intense aurora, Northern and Southern Lights.