Planetary Astronomy Late-morning Seminar for 2018-04-16

Series: Planetary Astronomy Late-morning Seminar
Date: Monday 16-Apr-2018
Time: 11:15-12:15
Location: ATL 1250
Speaker: Kathy Mandt (JHU-APL)
Title: The Search for Volatiles on the Moon with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

In order to enable future human exploration of the Moon, astronauts will require access to in situ resources that are able to provide them with water and fuel. These resources are found in the highest abundances in the polar regions, where there are Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSRs) – several thousand square kilometers of low lying areas are never exposed to sunlight. Observations made by the neutron detector on Lunar Prospector found increased levels of hydrogen at the poles but was not able to differentiate between hydrogen implanted by the solar wind, hydroxyl bound to minerals and pure water. Later, the Chandrayaan-1 mission found sprectrographic evidence for water, which appeared to be more abundant closer to the poles. Two NASA missions were conceived to prepare for future human spaceflight to the Moon: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission. Of particular interest for these missions is the abundance and composition of volatiles in PSRs. LRO carries seven instruments, each of which contributes unique information about volatiles on the Moon. The LRO and LCROSS spacecraft collected data from the impact of their launch vehicle’s spent Centaur upper stage into the Cabeus Crater PSR. The LRO Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) detected H2, CO, Hg, Mg and Ca in the plume resulting from the impact, while LCROSS observed a large amount of water and a few percent H2S, NH3, SO2, C2H4, CO2, CH3OH, CH4 and OH. What is most striking is the similarity between the composition of the plume volatiles and the composition of comets, indicating that comets could have made an important contribution to the volatiles sequestered in the Lunar poles. LRO continues to make observations of the Moon, mapping water frost and ice at various depths. We will discuss this ongoing work and the implications for the origin of volatiles on the Moon and for the future of human exploration.

For further information contact PALS coordinator Dr. Matthew Knight at or (301)-405-2629.


Special accommodations for individuals with disabilities can be made by calling (301) 405-3001. It would be appreciated if we are notified at least one week in advance.


Directions and information about parking can be found here.

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