Planets and Moons  ID: 4043

LRO Peers into Permanent Shadows

The Moon's permanently shadowed regions, or PSRs, are places on the Moon that haven't seen the Sun in millions, or even billions, of years. The Earth's tilted axis allows sunlight to fall everywhere on its surface, even at the poles, for at least part of the year. But the Moon's tilt relative to the Sun is only 1.6°, not enough to get sunlight into some deep craters near the lunar north and south poles. PSRs are therefore some of the coldest, darkest places in the solar system.

Because of that, PSRs are expected to be excellent traps for volatiles, chemicals that would normally vaporize and escape into space, and this includes water. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) includes several instruments designed to peer into the PSR darkness and measure temperature, reflectivity, and neutron absorption, all of which are clues to what chemicals might be hiding there. This animation shows where the PSRs are and in what ways LRO can see inside them.
 

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Visualization Credits

Ernie Wright (USRA): Lead Animator
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Producer
John Keller (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio