Washington: The shadowy craters of the moon's South Pole could be the coldest spot in the solar system, NASA scientists have said.
NASA scientists Thursday announced the first data sent back to Earth from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a satellite that will spend the next year making the most detailed maps yet of the moon's surface to prepare for man's eventual return.
The craft is outfitted with instruments to provide a range of scientific data about the moon and to take photographs.
One instrument that takes pictures of the lunar surface found that temperatures at the moon's south pole range from 100 degrees Kelvin (minus 173 degrees Celsius) at night to 380 Kelvin (107 degrees Celsius) during the day, or hotter than the boiling point of water.
But in the permanently shadowed craters, where scientists hope to find signs of ice, temperatures never exceed 35 degrees Kelvin (minus 238 degrees Celsius), said project scientist Richard Vondrak.
That is colder than any other region in the solar system that has been identified, even far-flung Pluto, Vondrak said.
Scientists also said they had found evidence of widespread hydrogen at the pole, indicating the possible presence of water not just in the craters but across the surface.
First Published: Friday, September 18, 2009, 09:53