School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

NS&M Faculty Member to Present "Lunar Thermal Emission, Rock Abundance, and Landing Hazards" at the Florida Institute of Technology

Dr. Mary Urquhart, assistant professor in the Department of Science/Mathematics Education, affiliate faculty in the Department of Physics, and member of the William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences, has been invited to present a colloquium at the Florida Institute of Technology's Department of Physics and Space Sciences on April 28, 2006.

An abstract of her presentation is available below.

"Lunar Thermal Emission, Rock Abundance, and Landing Hazards."

In the past few years there has been a renewed interest in lunar exploration.  For example, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled for a 2008 launch, will map the moon using a six-instrument payload to identify lunar resources and characterize future robotic and human landing sites.

Temperature measurements of the lunar surface can be used to characterize cold traps for ice near the poles, but they also have the potential to do something else important for future landers: identify landing hazards in the form of meter-scale rocks.  

During the long lunar night, thermal emission is strongly controlled by the rock abundance.  Rock abundance and thermal inertia are routinely used in the landing site selection process in Mars exploration.   Rocks of a meter or more in size can easily jeopardize the success of landings and the survival of surface spacecraft.  

"In this presentation I will show how the abundance of rocks dominates the thermal signature of the cooling lunar surface and compare the process of determining lunar rock abundance with that used for Martian landing sites.  I will also demonstrate how a new lunar thermal model jointly developed with Michael Mellon of the University of Colorado provides the opportunity for mapping of potential landing hazards on the lunar surface" Dr. Urquhart said.

  • Updated: December 19, 2007