Thursday, September 17, 2009

Colder than Pluto, LRO Diviner spies out where no eye has gone before...

High-resolution thermal maps of the south polar region of the Moon. From maps assembled from LRO-Diviner observations during July and August.

"Diviner’s observations provide the first measurements of temperatures inside permanently shadowed polar craters that may contain deposits of cold-trapped water ice. Notable are 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 35K (-397° F) in the coldest areas. To our state of knowledge, these super-cold brightness temperatures are among the lowest measured anywhere in the solar system, including the surface of Pluto.

According to science team member Ashwin Vasavada of JPL, “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. Their presence greatly increases the likelihood that water or other compounds are frozen there. Diviner has lived up to its name.”

Figures 2a-b. Diviner has acquired the first global daytime and nighttime thermal maps of the Moon. These maps were assembled using Diviner data obtained during August and the first half of September, 2009. (NASA/GSFC/UCLA)

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