Although LAMP was designed to map the lunar surface, the team expanded its science investigation to examine the far ultraviolet emissions visible in the tenuous atmosphere above the lunar surface, detecting helium over a campaign spanning more than 50 orbits.
Because helium also resides in the interplanetary background, several techniques were applied to remove signal contributions from the background helium and determine the amount of helium native to the Moon. Geophysical Research Letters published a paper on this research in 2012.
"The question now becomes, does the helium originate from inside the Moon, for example, due to radioactive decay in rocks, or from an exterior source, such as the solar wind?" says Dr. Alan Stern, LAMP principal investigator and associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute.
In a related study led by Dr. Paul Feldman of Johns Hopkins University and published in Icarus, observations showed day-to-day variations in helium abundances, possibly varying with the solar wind, and also significantly decreasing when the Moon passed behind Earth out of sight from the solar wind.
"If we find the solar wind is responsible, that will teach us a lot about how the same process works in other airless bodies," says Stern.
If spacecraft observations show no such correlation, radioactive decay or other internal lunar processes could be producing helium that diffuses from the interior or that releases during lunar quakes.
"With LAMP's global views as it moves across the Moon in future observations, we'll be in a great position to better determine the dominant source of the helium," says Stern.
Another point for future research involves helium abundances. LACE measurements showed an increase in helium abundances as the night progressed. This could be explained by atmospheric cooling, which concentrates atoms at lower altitudes. LAMP will further build on those measurements by investigating how the abundances vary with latitude.
During its campaign, LACE also detected the noble gas argon on the lunar surface. Although significantly fainter to the spectrograph, LAMP also will seek argon and other gases during future observations.
The paper, "Lunar Atmospheric Helium Detections by the LAMP UV Spectrograph on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter," by Stern, K.D. Retherford, C.C.C. Tsang, P.D. Feldman, W. Pryor and G.R. Gladstone, was published in Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 39, doi:10.1029/2012GL051797, 2012.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., developed and manages the LRO mission. LRO's current Science Mission is implemented for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate sponsored LRO's initial one-year Exploration Mission that concluded in September 2010.
Maria Martinez | EurekAlert!
NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora
27.06.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Collapse of the European ice sheet caused chaos
27.06.2017 | CAGE - Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy