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A Microphysical Thermal Model for the Lunar Regolith: Investigating the Latitudinal Dependence of Regolith Properties

under review
  • The microphysical structure of the lunar regolith provides information on the geologic history of the Moon. We used remote sensing measurements of thermal emission and a thermophysical model to determine the microphysical properties of the lunar regolith. We expand upon previous investigations by developing a microphysical thermal model, which more directly simulates regolith properties, such as grain size and volume filling factor. The modeled temperatures are matched with surface temperatures measured by the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment on board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The maria and highlands are investigated separately and characterized in the model by a difference in albedo, grain density and thermal conductivity. We find similar regolith temperatures for both terrains, which can be well described by mean grain sizes obtained from returned Apollo samples. However, in particular for the highlands, the model predicts much higher bulk densities compared to the ones inferred from Apollo drill cores, which we attribute to the low thermal conductivity of returned Apollo samples used in the model. We then investigate the latitudinal dependence of regolith properties up to ±80° latitude. When assuming constant regolith properties, we find that a variation of the solar incidence-dependent albedo can reduce the initially observed latitudinal gradient between model and Diviner measurements significantly. A better match between measurements and model can be achieved by a variation in intrinsic regolith properties with a decrease in bulk density with increasing latitude. We find that a variation in grain size alone cannot explain the Diviner measurements at higher latitudes.
Author:Johanna BürgerORCiD, Paul Hayne, Bastian Gundlach, Matthias LäuterORCiD, Tobias KramerORCiD, Jürgen BlumORCiD
Document Type:Article
Parent Title (English):Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Year of first publication:2024
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