New Animation Explains How Lunar Trailblazer Will Identify Lunar Water

6 March 2020

A new animation created by Pasadena City College intern Emily Felder was released by the Lunar Trailblazer team on March 6th, 2020. “It’s really important to find ways to explain high-level science for a general audience,” says Felder. “Animations like this help to concisely and clearly communicate what it is we’re doing with the Lunar Trailblazer mission.”

The first part of the animation shows how Lunar Trailblazer expands upon previous missions. Lunar Trailblazer’s High-resolution Volatiles and Minerals Mapper (HVM3) builds upon the heritage of the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), an infrared spectrometer aboard the Chandrayaan-1 that first detected water on the Moon’s surface in the infrared wavelengths using measures of reflected light. However, the detection of water was based on a diagnostic absorption around 3 micrometers—right at the detection limit of M3. Lunar Trailblazer’s HVM3 instrument extends the wavelength range to longer wavelengths, to fully characterize the 3-micrometer water absorption.

The second half of the animation demonstrates how the amount of reflected light at different wavelengths changes with temperature—and how it becomes difficult to characterize the 3-micrometer water absorption as temperature increases. “That’s why we need measurements at longer wavelengths to constrain the temperature,” explains Felder. By constraining the temperature with measurements beyond 3-micrometer with HVM3 and with Lunar Trailblazer’s Lunar Thermal Mapper (LTM) instrument, the 3-micrometer water absorption can be fully characterized.

Felder’s next step is to create a voiceover to explain the science behind the animation. “Right now, the animation works well for presentations and talks,” she says, “but for viewers online, it will be helpful to have an auditory explanation to accompany the visuals.” Felder’s continued work will help communicate Lunar Trailblazer to all audiences and generate excitement about lunar science and exploration.

By Jasper Miura
Jasper Miura is a Research Technician Associate and Lunar Trailblazer Science Manager at Caltech.