What temperature is the surface of the Moon and why should I care?

Neil Bowles is an Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford. He is a Co-Investigator as part of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission. His lunar research interests include analysing the Moon’s surface composition from lunar satellite observations and mapping and understanding its temperature properties for future robotic and human exploration.

Measurements by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Diviner radiometer instrument have revealed the Moon’s surface to be one of temperature extremes, from over 100 C at noon on the equator to some of the lowest recorded naturally occurring temperatures at the poles of < -240 C. Why is this the case? And what does it mean for the future of planetary science and exploration of the solar system? Our laboratory and numerical modelling work in Oxford are helping with the next generation of missions to airless bodies in our solar system.