NASA Radar Finds Ice Deposits at Moon’s North Pole

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Mini-SAR is a lightweight (less than 10 kg) imaging radar.  It uses the polarization properties of reflected radio waves to characterize surface properties.  Mini-SAR sends pulses of radar that are left-circular polarized.  Typical planetary surfaces reverse the polarization during the reflection of radio waves, so that normal echoes from Mini-SAR are right circular polarized.  The ratio of received power in the same sense transmitted (left circular) to the opposite sense (right circular) is called the circular polarization ratio (CPR).  Most of the Moon has low CPR, meaning that the reversal of polarization is the norm, but some targets have high CPR.  These include very rough, fresh surfaces (such as a young, fresh crater) and ice, which is transparent to radio energy and multiply scatters the pulses, leading to an enhancement in same sense reflections and hence, high CPR.  CPR is not uniquely diagnostic of either roughness or ice; the science team must take into account the environment of the occurrences of high CPR signal to interpret its cause.

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