Emissivity and Anisothermality Studies at the Lunar Poles with Diviner's Far Infrared Channels


The Diviner Radiometer on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is measuring surface temperatures in 7 different thermal channels, 4 of them in the wavelength area classically defined as far infrared, starting at 13 microns, and ending with the longest wavelength channel at 400 microns. The surface temperatures derived from these thermal infrared measurements at the lunar poles indicate some of the coldest temperatures measured in the solar system of around 20 K. This work aims to disprove the null hypothesis that other effects like wavelength and temperature dependent emissivities are responsible for a reduced radiant exitance and the subsequently low derived surface temperature. To address the wavelength dependency of emissivity we are comparing nighttime temperatures over time (cooling curves) in between the different far infrared channels at selected locations. The locations have to be selected for low rock abundance to minimize anisothermality effects influencing the cooling curves. For this we are applying the method of lunar surface rock abundance using Diviner data as described in Bandfield et al. (2011), that has not been done so far at latitudes poleward of 60°. To avoid the large influence of slopes on the surface temperatures, the main reason for the latitude restriction in Bandfield et al. (2011) we use recent LOLA altimeter data to resolve any slopes that could influence the cooling curve at a chosen location. Having selected a location relatively free of anisothermalities and taking their effect into account, general differences in the cooling curves of the different Diviner wavelengths are interpreted as wavelength-dependent emissivities. To address the potential temperature dependency of emissivity, we are studying how the parameters of a mid-temperature range exponential fit to the cooling curve fit from approx. 250 to 70K, where we do not expect a temperature dependence of emissivity, extends to highest and lowest temperatures at the poles. Failure to make the high or low ends of the cooling curve fit to the extrapolated shape of the mid-temperature curve indicates a change of emissivity. Lastly, these studies should compare locations where we expect a potential emissivity effect from surface frosts. Chosen locations close to each other and under the assumption of comparable lateral heat conductivity at these close locations, surface deposits of ices should have a measurable effect on the emissivity. Studying this could further support two of Diviner’s exciting hypotheses of water ice deposits in craters at the pole, and having measured some of the coldest temperature in the solar system.

American Geophysical Union
Michael Aye
Michael Aye
Research Scientist in Planetary Science

My research interests include remote sensing of surfaces, related machine learning studies and open source software.