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Keywords:

  • Moon;
  • M3;
  • water

[1] Analysis of two absorption features near 3 μm in the lunar reflectance spectrum, observed by the orbiting M3 spectrometer and interpreted as being due to OH and H2O, is presented, and the results are used to discuss the processes producing these molecules. This analysis focuses on the dependence of the absorptions on lunar physical properties, including composition, illumination, latitude, and temperature. Solar wind proton-induced hydroxylation is proposed as the creation process, and its products could be a source for other reported types of hydrogen-rich material and water. The irregular and damaged fine-grained lunar soil seems especially adapted for trapping solar wind protons and forming OH owing to abundant dangling oxygen bonds. The M3 data reveal that the strengths of the two absorptions are correlated and widespread, and both are correlated with lunar composition but in different ways. Feldspathic material seems richer in OH. These results seem to rule out water from the lunar interior and cometary infall as major sources. There appear to be correlations of apparent band strengths with time of day and lighting conditions. However, thermal emission from the Moon reduces the apparent strengths of the M3 absorptions, and its removal is not yet completely successful. Further, many of the lunar physical properties are themselves intercorrelated, and so separating these dependencies on the absorptions is difficult, due to the incomplete M3 data set. This process should also operate on other airless silicate surfaces, such as Mercury and Vesta, which will be visited by the Dawn spacecraft in mid-2011.