Thermal observations from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), indicate that there may be water on the surface of the moon.
The thermal mapping is being carried out by the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, which has a spatial resolution of just a few hundred yards.
Most notable are the measurements of extremely cold temperatures within the permanently shadowed regions of large polar impact craters in the south polar region. Diviner has recorded minimum daytime brightness temperatures in portions of these craters of less than -397 degrees Fahrenheit – among the lowest that have been measured anywhere in the solar system, including the surface of Pluto.
“After decades of speculation, Diviner has given us the first confirmation that these strange, permanently dark and extremely cold places actually exist on our moon,” said science team member Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Their presence greatly increases the likelihood that water or other compounds are frozen there. Diviner has lived up to its name.”
The moon’s extreme temperature environment is highly relevant for future human and robotic exploration. Detailed thermal maps of the moon can also help identify rocky areas that could be hazardous to landing vehicles.
For more information, visit the Diviner’s website.