Home > Astronomy, LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter), Moon, Solar System, Spaceflight, Unmanned Spaceflight > Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LAMP Spectrometer Detects Helium In Moon’s Atmosphere, Raises Questions About Origin

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LAMP Spectrometer Detects Helium In Moon’s Atmosphere, Raises Questions About Origin


Scientists using the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have made the first spectroscopic observations of the noble gas helium in the tenuous atmosphere surrounding the Moon. These remote-sensing observations complement in-situ measurements taken in 1972 by the Lunar Atmosphere Composition Experiment (LACE) deployed by Apollo 17.

Although LAMP was designed to map the lunar surface, the team expanded its science investigation to examine the far ultraviolet emissions visible in the tenuous atmosphere above the lunar surface, detecting helium over a campaign spanning more than 50 orbits. Because helium also resides in the interplanetary background, several techniques were applied to remove signal contributions from the background helium and determine the amount of helium native to the Moon. Geophysical Research Letters published a paper on this research in 2012.

“The question now becomes, does the helium originate from inside the Moon, for example, due to radioactive decay in rocks, or from an exterior source, such as the solar wind?” says Dr. Alan Stern, LAMP principal investigator and associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute.

Full Story: http://swri.org/9what/releases/2012/lro-lamp.htm

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