Hydrogen Mapping of the Lunar South Pole Using the LRO Neutron Detector Experiment LEND

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Science  22 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6003, pp. 483-486
DOI: 10.1126/science.1185696

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Hydrogen has been inferred to occur in enhanced concentrations within permanently shadowed regions and, hence, the coldest areas of the lunar poles. The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission was designed to detect hydrogen-bearing volatiles directly. Neutron flux measurements of the Moon’s south polar region from the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft were used to select the optimal impact site for LCROSS. LEND data show several regions where the epithermal neutron flux from the surface is suppressed, which is indicative of enhanced hydrogen content. These regions are not spatially coincident with permanently shadowed regions of the Moon. The LCROSS impact site inside the Cabeus crater demonstrates the highest hydrogen concentration in the lunar south polar region, corresponding to an estimated content of 0.5 to 4.0% water ice by weight, depending on the thickness of any overlying dry regolith layer. The distribution of hydrogen across the region is consistent with buried water ice from cometary impacts, hydrogen implantation from the solar wind, and/or other as yet unknown sources.

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