Temperatures Near the Lunar Poles and Their Correlation With Hydrogen Predicted by LEND
The lunar polar regions offer permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) representing the only regions which are cold enough for water ice to accumulate on the surface. The Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has mapped the polar regions for their hydrogen abundance which possibly resides there in the form of water ice. Neutron suppression regions (NSRs) are regions of excessive hydrogen concentrations and were previously identified using LEND data. At each pole, we applied thermal modeling to three NSRs and one unclassified region to evaluate the correlation between hydrogen concentrations and temperatures. Our thermal model delivers temperature estimates for the surface and for 29 layers in the sub‐surface down to 2 m depth. We compared our temperature maps at each layer to LEND neutron suppression maps to reveal the range of depths at which both maps correlate best. As anticipated, we find the three south polar NSRs which are coincident with PSRs in agreement with respective (near)‐surface temperatures that support the accumulation of water ice. Water ice is suspected to be present in the upper ≈19 cm layer of regolith. The three north polar NSRs however lie in non‐PSR areas and are counter‐intuitive as such that most surfaces reach temperatures that are too high for water ice to exist. However, we find that temperatures are cold enough in the shallow sub‐surface and suggest water ice to be present at depths down to ≈35–65 cm. Additionally we find ideal conditions for ice pumping into the sub‐surface at the north polar NSRs. The reported depths are observable by LEND and can, at least in part, explain the existence and shape of the observed hydrogen signal. Although we can substantiate the anticipated correlation between hydrogen abundance and temperature the converse argument cannot be made.
Published in: Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 10.1029/2020JE006598, Wiley