Paul Strycker published for his lunar findings

October 28, 2013
Paul Strycker

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Dr. Paul Strycker, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville physics lecturer, has been published in the journal Nature Communications for his findings on lunar craters and water on the moon.

During his doctoral studies at New Mexico State University and subsequently at UW-Platteville, Strycker and six colleagues, Dr. Nancy Chanover, Dr. Charles Miller, Dr. Ryan Hamilton, Dr. Brendan Hermalyn, Dr. Robert Suggs and Dr. Michael Sussman, conducted a study of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.

LCROSS was a mission conducted by NASA with the goals of better understanding how lunar craters are formed, and determining if there is frozen water in the areas of the moon that never receive sunlight. This mission was done by launching part of a rocket into a crater on the southern, permanently shaded portion of the moon.

Scientists looked for a flash of light that would determine whether or not frozen water was detected and how material is ejected from a newly formed crater. The scientists were able to find the water using cameras located at the moon but were not able to detect a flash from earth’s point of view. Without earth’s perspective, the mission’s cratering experiment was inconclusive. With Strycker’s software that he developed during a study of Jupiter, they were able to uncover new findings.

“I realized the work I had done on Jupiter for my dissertation was exactly what they could use to find a faint flash if it existed, and I had already written the programs to use,” said Strycker.

Within two days of this realization Strycker detected something in the footage of the collision taken with a telescope on earth. “For the next six months I worked on cleaning it up and making it look better, and for the next one and a half years I looked at the shape of the plume,” said Strycker.

Strycker’s software was crucial to the findings during this study. It helped to map the shape of the plume from the blast of the impact on the moon, and found that there is 6 percent frozen water in the lunar soil located in this permanently shaded area of the moon.

“We were able to get more data out of a NASA mission that was already done and over with,” said Strycker. “One day we might send another human mission to the moon and we now have a guess of what to plan for. We would be able to dig up water so we don’t have to bring it with us.”

Contact: Paul Strycker, engineering physics,

Written by: Jessica Mueller, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194,


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