Moon: Surface Temperature

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Description

As our nearest neighbor, the Moon is a natural laboratory for investigating fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of the Earth and the solar system. With the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), NASA has returned to the Moon, enabling new discoveries and bringing the Moon back into the public eye. LRO launched on an Atlas V rocket on June 18, 2009, beginning a four-day trip to the Moon. LRO spent its first three years in a low polar orbit collecting detailed information about the Moon and its environment. After this initial orbit, LRO transitioned to a stable elliptical orbit, passing low over the lunar south pole.

While in orbit, LRO observations have enabled numerous groundbreaking discoveries, creating a new picture of the Moon as a dynamic and complex body. These developments have set up a scientific framework through which to challenge and improve our understanding of processes throughout the solar system.

The data in this dataset is from the The Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, a multi-channel solar reflectance and infrared radiometer that maps the temperature of the lunar surface at 500-meter horizontal scales. Diviner data sets are produced by the Diviner Science Team at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Earth's Moon: Temperature from LRO Diviner

The Diviner instrument uses seven thermal infrared channels to measure temperatures on the surface of the Moon. These maps represent lunar surface temperatures at different points in the Moon's orbit around the Earth, compiled from data taken from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Since Diviner can only take thin strips of data with each orbit, scientists needed to combine data collected over the course of three years to recreate a snap shot of global temperature.

As the Moon moves around the Earth, different portions of the lunar surface are illuminated by sunlight, causing the phases of the Moon and a significant change in surface temperature. Areas illuminated by the Sun (white and red) can reach temperatures hot enough to boil water, while areas in shadow (blue) reach temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing.

The extreme temperature environment on the Moon is of interest for planning future human and robotic exploration missions because engineers must design equipment to withstand the drastic shifts in temperature over the course of a lunar day (28 Earth days). Scientists also study the Moon's temperature in order to determine where water might be stable at or below the surface. The Diviner instrument has identified permanently shadowed areas inside crater rims near polar regions as the most likely places to find surface and subsurface water ice.

Diviner is also mapping compositional variations in lunar rocks and soil by measuring the intensity of infrared light measured in three channels, distinct from the thermal channels described above. This information helps scientist unravel the Moon's geologic history and understand how it formed.

For more information on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit: NASA LRO or regarding the Diviner instrument the Diviner Mission website.

Notable Features

  • The extreme temperature environment on the Moon is of interest for planning future human and robotic exploration missions because engineers must design equipment to withstand the drastic shifts in temperature over the course of a lunar day
  • Scientists also study the Moon's temperature in order to determine where water might be stable at or below the surface

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