DPS 2001 meeting, November 2001
Session 4. Worlds Inside 1 AU
Oral, Chairs: M. Drake, A. Hendrix, Tuesday, November 27, 2001, 11:10am-12:30pm, Regency GH

[Previous] | [Session 4] | [Next]

[4.05] Results from the Lunar Prospector Alpha Particle Spectrometer: Detection of Radon-222 Over Craters Aristarchus and Kepler

S.L. Lawson, W.C. Feldman, D.J. Lawrence, K.R. Moore, R.D. Belian (Los Alamos National Laboratory), S. Maurice (Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees), A.B. Binder (Lunar Research Institute)

The Lunar Prospector Alpha Particle Spectrometer (LP APS) searched for lunar surface gas release events and mapped their distribution by detecting alpha particles produced by the decay of gaseous radon-222 (5.5 MeV, 3.8 day half-life), solid polonium-218 (6.0 MeV, 3 minute half-life), and solid polonium-210 (5.3 MeV, 138 day half-life, but held up in production by the 21 year half-life of lead-210). These three nuclides are radioactive daughters from the decay of uranium-238. Radon reaches the lunar surface either at areas of high soil porosity or where fissures release the trapped gases in which radon is entrained.

We have examined APS data within ± 45 degrees of the equator acquired during periods of low interplanetary alpha particle flux. The spectra were summed over all LP mapping cycles when the instrument was turned on (approximately 229 days over 16 months). To yield lunar alpha particle maps, we summed over a 0.2 MeV energy range centered on each of the three alpha particle energies noted above. The LP APS found only a faint indication of alpha particles resulting from the decay of polonium-218 and only a marginal detection of alpha particles from polonium-210. However, our radon-222 alpha particle map indicates that radon gas is presently emanating from the vicinity of craters Aristarchus and Kepler. The LP gamma-ray spectrometer, which effectively has significantly higher spatial resolution than the APS, identified thorium enrichments at these two craters. Thorium and uranium are both incompatible elements whose lunar surface abundances are highly correlated; thus, it is likely that the radon-222 alpha particles measured using the LP APS originate from Kepler and Aristarchus. Our detection of radon over Aristarchus is consistent with the results of the Apollo 15 APS.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: stefs@lanl.gov

[Previous] | [Session 4] | [Next]