Modeling radar scattering from icy lunar regoliths at 13 cm and 4 cm wavelengths

Thomas W. Thompson, Eugene A. Ustinov, Essam Heggy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)


Two orbital synthetic aperture radars (SARs), the Chandrayaan-1 Mini-SAR (13 cm wavelength) and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Mini-RF (13 and 4.2 cm wavelengths), have been imaging the lunar surface searching for ice deposits in the polar permanently shadowed areas. To understand the radar signatures of lunar polar ices, an empirical two-component model with parametric variations of the specular and diffuse components was developed and validated. This model estimates scattering differences associated with slopes, surface roughness, thin regolith over ice, and patches of ice. Lunar radar backscatter cross sections for the average surface for the Chandrayaan-1 and LRO instruments are estimated from the radar cross sections from the Moon at 3.8, 23, and 68 cm wavelengths measured in the 1960s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This modeling predicts that enhanced diffuse scattering from near-surface ice can be separated from rocks if the scattering is characterized by both the high reflectivity and circular polarization ratios (CPRs) like those observed on Mercury, Mars, and the Galilean satellites. Scattering from near-surface ices covered by a thin regolith can be separated from rocks if the enhancement is twice the average or more. If, however, the lunar ice is dispersed throughout the regolith as ice-filling pores, then scattering differences might be too small to detect. Preliminary validation using LRO radar data for a few polar and midlatitude craters indicate that the observed CPRs are consistent with our models for different regolith ice and roughness conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE01006
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research E: Planets
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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