SMART-1’s Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) has collected many images of the lunar south-polar region, with unprecedented spatial resolution. The images, obtained over a full year of changing seasons were used to study the different levels of solar illumination on the Moon’s surface.
The orientation of the lunar rotation axis is such that the Sun just about grazes the lunar poles, leaving some regions permanently shadowed.
Shackleton crater is located in the inner ring of the south pole Aitken basin, the largest known impact basin in the solar system. It has a diameter of 2600 km.
The south pole is located on the rim of Shackleton crater. SMART-1 took images around the crater, which is a strong contender for a future robotic and human exploration site and for a permanent human base.
The polar mosaics show geological features of interest within reach from the south pole. Monitoring of the illumination of selected polar sites has allowed scientists to confirm that a ridge located 10 km from the Shackleton rim is prominently illuminated, and could be a strong contender for a potential future lunar outpost.
The large number of impact craters in the area indicates that the terrain is ancient. An example is crater Amundsen, 105 km in diameter, lying 100 km from the pole. It shows central peaks and asymmetric terraces that deserve geological and geochemistry studies.
The Lunar Prospector mission had previously indicated evidence of enhanced hydrogen in the permanent shadowed floors of polar craters, possible sign of water ice – a relevant element when choosing a human outpost.
As to whether or not ice could still be trapped under the floor of polar craters, the former SMART-1 Project Scientist Bernard Foing said, “To understand whether or not water is possibly present at the south pole, we have to take into account the following factors: how volatile elements were delivered to the lunar surface by comets or water-rich asteroids, whether they were destroyed or persisted under a dust cover and for how long they were able to accumulate.”
“The polar regions are still lunar incognita, and it is critical to explore them and study their geological history,” he added.
Using SMART-1 images, SMART-1 AMIE investigators and US collaborators have also counted small impact craters on Shackleton ejecta blanket to estimate the age of the crater. They have found that the number of craters is twice that of Apollo 15 landing site, which would make the Shackleton crater between 3.9 to 4.3 thousand million years old.
“Previous investigators believed Shackleton to be much younger, but that could be due to grazing illumination at the poles, which enhances the topography, mimicking a younger crater.”
So, in view of SMART-1 observations, the south polar site looks even more interesting with the confirmation of prominently-lit sites, and the indication of old craters where ice could have had more time to accumulate in permanently-shadowed areas.
“The SMART-1 south polar maps indicate very exciting targets for science and future exploration, within travel reach from a rover or humans at the south pole”, says Jean-Luc Josset, Principal Investigator for the AMIE.
Bernard Foing | alfa
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy