Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Walls of Lunar Crater May Hold Patchy Ice, LRO Radar Finds

31.08.2012
Small patches of ice could make up at most five to ten percent of material in walls of Shackleton crater.

Scientists using the Mini-RF radar on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have estimated the maximum amount of ice likely to be found inside a permanently shadowed lunar crater located near the moon's South Pole. As much as five to ten percent of material, by weight, could be patchy ice, according to the team of researchers led by Bradley Thomson at Boston University's Center for Remote Sensing, in Mass.


Radar data indicate that the walls of Shackleton crater may hold ice. Actual observations (CPR) by LRO's Mini-RF instrument are compared to calculated radar values for 0.5% to 10% ice. Credit: NASA

"These terrific results from the Mini-RF team contribute to the evolving story of water on the moon," says LRO's deputy project scientist, John Keller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Several of the instruments on LRO have made unique contributions to this story, but only the radar penetrates beneath the surface to look for signatures of blocky ice deposits."

These are the first orbital radar measurements of Shackleton crater, a high-priority target for future exploration. The observations indicate an enhanced radar polarization signature, which is consistent with the presence of small amounts of ice in the rough inner wall slopes of the crater. Thomson and his colleagues reported the findings in a paper recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"The interior of this crater lies in permanent shadow and is a 'cold trap'¡ªa place cold enough to permit ice to accumulate," says Mini-RF's principal investigator, Ben Bussey of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "The radar results are consistent with the interior of Shackleton containing a few percent ice mixed into the dry lunar soil."

These findings support the long-recognized possibility that areas of permanent shadow inside polar impact craters are sites of the potential accumulation of water. Numerous lines of evidence from recent spacecraft observations have revised the view that the lunar surface is a completely dry, inhospitable landscape. Thin films of water and hydroxyl have been detected across the lunar surface using several space-borne near-infrared spectrometers. Additionally, orbital neutron measurements indicate elevated levels of near©surface hydrogen in the polar regions; if in the form of water, this hydrogen would represent an average ice concentration of about 1.5% by weight in the polar regions.

The Shackleton findings are also consistent with those of the recent LCROSS spacecraft's controlled collision with a nearby permanently shadowed polar region near the lunar South Pole, which revealed evidence for water in the plume kicked up by its impact. A radar instrument flown on India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in 2009 found evidence for ice deposits in craters at the lunar North Pole. Measurements of the albedo (surface reflectance) inside Shackleton crater using LRO's laser altimeter and far©ultraviolet detector are also consistent with the presence of a small amount of ice.

"Inside the crater, we don't see evidence for glaciers like on Earth," says Thomson. "Glacial ice has a whopping radar signal, and these measurements reveal a much weaker signal consistent with rugged terrain and limited ice."

The radar measurements of Shackleton crater were made during three separate observations between December 2009 and June 2010. Radar illuminates shadowed regions and can detect deposits of water or ice, which have a distinctive radar polarization signature compared to the surrounding material. In addition, radar penetrates the terrain to depths of a meter or two and can measure water or ice buried beneath the surface. Radar measurements of Shackleton crater place an upper bound on the ice content of the uppermost meter of loose material of the crater's walls at between five and ten percent ice by weight.

"We are following up these tantalizing results with additional observations," says Bussey. "Mini-RF is currently acquiring new bistatic radar images of the moon using a signal transmitted by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. These bistatic images will help us distinguish between surface roughness and ice, providing further unique insights into the locations of volatile deposits."

The Mini-RF instrument, operated at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., is one of seven instruments on board NASA's LRO spacecraft. NASA Goddard 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.

Patrick Farrell
Boston University, Boston, Mass.
617-358-1185
Nancy Neal-Jones/Elizabeth Zubritsky
301-286-0039/301-614-5438
nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov/elizabeth.a.zubritsky@nasa.gov

Nancy Neal-Jones | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/shackleton-ice.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas
19.07.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NSF-supported researchers to present new results on hurricanes and other extreme events
19.07.2018 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>