Evidence for the sequestration of hydrogen-bearing volatiles towards the Moon's southern pole-facing slopes

T. P. McClanahan, I. G. Mitrofanov, W. V. Boynton, G. Chin, J. Bodnarik, G. Droege, L. G. Evans, D. Golovin, D. Hamara, K. Harshman, M. Litvak, T. A. Livengood, A. Malakhov, E. Mazarico, G. Milikh, G. Nandikotkur, A. Parsons, R. Sagdeev, A. Sanin, R. D. StarrJ. J. Su, J. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) detects a widespread suppression of the epithermal neutron leakage flux that is coincident with the pole-facing slopes (PFS) of the Moon's southern hemisphere. Suppression of the epithermal neutron flux is consistent with an interpretation of enhanced concentrations of hydrogen-bearing volatiles within the upper meter of the regolith. Localized flux suppression in PFS suggests that the reduced solar irradiation and lowered temperature on PFS constrains volatility to a greater extent than in surrounding regions. Epithermal neutron flux mapped with LEND's Collimated Sensor for Epithermal Neutrons (CSETN) was analyzed as a function of slope geomorphology derived from the Lunar Orbiting Laser Altimeter (LOLA) and the results compared to co-registered maps of diurnally averaged temperature from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment and an averaged illumination map derived from LOLA. The suppression in the average south polar epithermal neutron flux on equator-facing slopes (EFS) and PFS (85-90°S) is 3.3. ±. 0.04% and 4.3. ±. 0.05% respectively (one-sigma-uncertainties), relative to the average count-rate in the latitude band 45-90°S. The discrepancy of 1.0. ±. 0.06% between EFS and PFS neutron flux corresponds to an average of ~23. parts-per-million-by-weight (ppmw) more hydrogen on PFS than on EFS. Results show that the detection of hydrogen concentrations on PFS is dependent on their spatial scale. Epithermal flux suppression on large scale PFS was found to be enhanced to 5.2. ±. 0.13%, a discrepancy of ~45. ppmw hydrogen relative to equivalent EFS. Enhanced poleward hydration of PFS begins between 50°S and 60°S latitude. Polar regolith temperature contrasts do not explain the suppression of epithermal neutrons on pole-facing slopes. The Supplemental on-line materials include supporting results derived from the uncollimated Lunar Prospector Neutron Spectrometer and the LEND Sensor for Epithermal Neutrons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-99
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Jul 15 2015


  • Ices
  • Moon
  • Moon, surface
  • Regoliths

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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