Click for original image.
Using a camera on South Korea’s lunar orbiter Danuri, dubbed Shadowcam and designed to look into the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s poles, scientists have taken an image that sees into the forever dark region of one such crater.
The picture to the right, released on March 13, 2023 by the Shadowcam science team, is of the crater Marvin, located about 16 miles to the east of the south pole. The pink outline indicates the area that is thought to be permanently shadowed.
The second image to the right provides a wider view of the south pole region, with the craters labeled and outlined by the green lines. The orange lines mark permanently shadowed areas. The white box indicates the approximate area covered by the Shadowcam picture. One of the candidate landing sites for Starship, as part of NASA’s Artemis program, is the eastern rim of Shackleton, essentially at the south pole itself.
Previous data suggests that ice should be found in those permanently shadowed areas, because other orbiters have detected evidence of hydrogen there. The Shadowcam picture above however shows nothing that strongly suggests the presence of ice, unless that darker flat area on the floor of the crater is ice-infused dust. If so however, it is quite ancient and solid, based on the presence of several craters within it.
The press release makes no mention of this question, probably because the scientists are still analyzing the data. This first look however suggests the ice is not there, or is in a form that is going to require a lot of processing to extract the water from it.
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