The nature of lunar volatiles as revealed by Mini-RF observations of the LCROSS impact site



[1] On 9 October 2009 the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) impacted Cabeus crater, located near the south pole of the Moon. Prior to that impact, the Mini-RF instruments on ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) obtained S band (12.6 cm) synthetic aperture radar images of the impact site at 150 and 30 m resolution, respectively. These observations show that the floor of Cabeus has a circular polarization ratio (CPR) comparable to or less than the average of nearby terrain in the southern lunar highlands. Furthermore, <2% of the pixels in Cabeus crater have CPR values greater than unity. This observation is not consistent with the presence of thick deposits of nearly pure water ice within a few meters of the lunar surface, but it does not rule out the presence of small (<∼10 cm), discrete pieces of ice mixed in with the regolith. In addition, Mini-RF on LRO acquired a postimpact S band image of the region surrounding the LCROSS impact site, providing important geologic context for the site. Registering the LRO image to a near-infrared (NIR) image taken by the LCROSS shepherding spacecraft, we find that the impactor landed in the ray of a fresh, radar-bright, 1 km crater. However, the difference between preimpact and postimpact images is not above the speckle noise. This implies that the size of the LCROSS impact crater is less than Mini-RF's resolution (30 m), and/or that the impact did not excavate more decimeter-size blocks than were already present at the impact site.