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Published June 21, 2012 | metadata_only
Journal Article

Constraints on the volatile distribution within Shackleton crater at the lunar south pole


Shackleton crater is nearly coincident with the Moon's south pole. Its interior receives almost no direct sunlight and is a perennial cold trap, making Shackleton a promising candidate location in which to seek sequestered volatiles. However, previous orbital and Earth-based radar mapping and orbital optical imaging have yielded conflicting interpretations about the existence of volatiles. Here we present observations from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter on board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, revealing Shackleton to be an ancient, unusually well-preserved simple crater whose interior walls are fresher than its floor and rim. Shackleton floor deposits are nearly the same age as the rim, suggesting that little floor deposition has occurred since the crater formed more than three billion years ago. At a wavelength of 1,064 nanometres, the floor of Shackleton is brighter than the surrounding terrain and the interiors of nearby craters, but not as bright as the interior walls. The combined observations are explicable primarily by downslope movement of regolith on the walls exposing fresher underlying material. The relatively brighter crater floor is most simply explained by decreased space weathering due to shadowing, but a one-micrometre-thick layer containing about 20 per cent surficial ice is an alternative possibility.

Additional Information

© 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received 23 December 2011. Accepted 04 May 2012. Published online 20 June 2012. The LOLA investigation is supported by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission under the auspices of NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and Science Mission Directorate. We thank T. Perron for discussions. Author Contributions: M.T.Z. led and participated in all aspects of the analysis and wrote the paper. J.W.H. oversaw the relative age dating analysis and participated in geologic interpretation of topography, slopes and roughness. D.E.S. led the acquisition and correction of the LOLA observations. G.A.N. led the slope and roughness analysis and contributed to the development of the topographic grid. E.M. performed refined orbit adjustments and led the analysis of illumination. A.R.T. and C.I.F. performed the crater counts used in the relative age date analysis. O.A. and M.A.R. contributed to the analysis and interpretation of slopes and roughness. H.J.M. contributed to the interpretation of the crater morphology in the context of Shackleton's geological history and volatile sequestration.

Additional details

August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023