LRO’s LAMP Ultraviolet Spectrograph Observes Mercury And Hydrogen In GRAIL Impact Plumes


When NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft made their final descent for impact onto the Moon’s surface last December, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s sophisticated payload was in position to observe the effects. As plumes of gas rose from the impacts, the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) aboard LRO detected the presence of mercury and hydrogen and measured their time evolution as the gas rapidly expanded into the vacuum of space at near-escape velocities.

NASA intentionally crashed the GRAIL twins onto the Moon on Dec. 17, 2012, following successful prime and extended science missions. Both spacecraft hit a mountain near the lunar north pole, which was shrouded in shadow at the time. Developed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), LAMP uses a novel method to peer into the darkness of the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, making it ideal for observations of the Moon’s night-side and its tenuous atmospheric constituents.

“While our results are still very new, our thinking is that the hydrogen detected from the GRAIL site might be related to an enhancement at the poles caused by hydrogen species migrating toward the colder polar regions,” says Dr. Kurt Retherford, LAMP principal investigator and a principal scientist at SwRI.

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2013/lamp.htm#.UVJXW94o5hE

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