Probing Planetary Bodies for Subsurface Volatiles: GEANT4 Models of Gamma Ray, Fast, Epithermal, and Thermal Neutron Response to Active Neutron Illumination
Abstract:Using an active source of neutrons as an in situ probe of a planetary body has proven to be a powerful tool to extract information about the presence, abundance, and location of subsurface volatiles without the need for drilling. The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument on Curiosity is an example of such an instrument and is designed to detect the location and abundance of hydrogen within the top 50 cm of the Martian surface. DAN works by sending a pulse of neutrons towards the ground beneath the rover and detecting the reflected neutrons. The intensity and time of arrival of the reflection depends on the proportion of water, while the time the pulse takes to reach the detector is a function of the depth at which the water is located. Similar instruments can also be effective probes at the polar-regions of the Moon or on asteroids as a way of detecting sequestered volatiles.
We present the results of GEANT4 particle simulation models of gamma ray, fast, epithermal, and thermal neutron responses to active neutron illumination. The results are parameterized by hydrogen abundance, stratification and depth of volatile layers, versus the distribution of neutron and gamma ray energy reflections. Models will be presented to approximate Martian, lunar, and asteroid environments and would be useful tools to assess utility for future NASA exploration missions to these types of planetary bodies.