via Astronomy Now.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has entered its mapping orbit and begun full operations. LRO has seven instruments, each of which has been bringing back important results before the main year of mapping at 50km altitude has got into full swing. These include:
The Diviner radiometer has mapped temperatures on the Lunar surface at the south pole during night and day. The results have already identified frigid craters at 33 degrees kelvin, the coldest known solar system temperature. Water ice in these craters would easily escape evaporation.
The Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) instrument measures neutron radiation and has been used to map hydrogen on the surface. Being a component of water (as well as methane, ammonia and other compounds) rather than an isolated element on the surface, the appearance of hydrogen in these cold craters and indeed all over the surface also hints at water ice.
The Lyman Alpha Mapping Project, LAMP, also saw signals that could be water frost on the surface, most notably on Cabaeus A, the crater LCROSS will smash into in an effort to vapourise some water ice for easy detection.
Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) however has a hint of caution for those wanting to get at the south pole’s icy deposits – it’s rough down there. Very rough. Not a good place to land.
CRaTER (the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation) looks at another problem for visitors – the radiation environment of the Moon.
NASA’s press conference on LRO has been posted to its Youtube Channel and is available to view below: