Lunar surface rock abundance and regolith fines temperatures derived from LRO Diviner Radiometer data

Joshua L. Bandfield, Rebecca R. Ghent, Ashwin R. Vasavada, David A. Paige, Samuel J. Lawrence, Mark Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Scopus citations


Surface temperatures derived from thermal infrared measurements provide a means of understanding the physical properties of the lunar surface. The contrasting thermophysical properties between rocks and regolith fines cause multiple temperatures to be present within the field of view of nighttime multispectral data returned from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Diviner Radiometer between 60N/S latitudes. Regolith temperatures are influenced by the presence of rocks in addition to factors such as the thermophysical properties of the regolith fines, latitude and local slopes, and radiative heating from adjacent crater walls. Preliminary comparisons of derived rock concentrations with LRO Camera images show both qualitative and quantitative agreement. Although comparisons of derived rock concentrations with circular polarization ratio radar data sets display general similarities, there are clear differences between the two data sets in the relative magnitude and areal extent of rocky signatures. Several surface units can be distinguished based on their regolith temperature and rock concentration values and distributions including maria and highlands surfaces, rocky impact craters, rilles, and wrinkle ridges, dark mantled deposits, and isolated cold surfaces. Rock concentrations are correlated with crater age and rocks are only preserved on the youngest surfaces or where steep slopes occur and mass wasting prevents mantling with fines. The presence of rocky surfaces excavated by young impacts allows for the estimation of minimum regolith thickness from the size of the impact. The derived rock concentrations confirm the presence of thicker regolith cover in the highlands and in locations of radar-dark haloes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE00H02
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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