he Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter carried the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) to the Moon.
Photo Credit: NASA/Debbie McCallum

LRO Continues to Examine Lunar Helium

By Christopher Paul

In August, AmericaSpace reported about the detection of helium in the Moon’s atmosphere. A new paper by the same group now reports on how the amount of helium varies as the lunar day progresses.

The team continued to use the LAMP instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to search for the helium, as before. The Lyman Alpha Mapping Project was originally intended to use the light emitted by hydrogen gas throughout the universe to map parts of the Moon never illuminated by the Sun.

The original search for helium took place during June of 2011. The team made new observations in December and January after LRO’s orbit was adjusted from a circular 50 km orbit to an elliptical one with a periapsis of 30 km and an apoapsis of 200 km. After this adjustment, LAMP was able to look directly down onto the night-side surface of the Moon. Employing a protocol developed for the Apollo 17 Ultraviolet Spectrometer, it was easy to recover the 58.4 nm wavelength light signal from the helium.

The LAMP team continued to make measurements from December 2011 into January 2012, or about one month. This allowed the team to measure the variation in the amount of helium as the Moon traveled in its orbit.

Read more: LRO Continues to Examine Lunar Helium « AmericaSpace.

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