NASA’s LRO finds that moon pits harbor comfortable temperatures

NASA-funded scientists have discovered shadowed locations inside the moon’s wells that always hover around a comfortable 63 F (about 17 C) using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and modeling by computer

The pits, and the caves they may lead to, would make thermally stable sites for lunar exploration compared to areas on the Moon’s surface, which heat up to 260 F (about 127 C) during the day and cool to minus 280 F (roughly less). 173 C) at night. Lunar exploration is part of NASA’s goal to explore and understand the unknown in space, to inspire and benefit humanity.

The pits were first discovered on the moon in 2009, and since then scientists have wondered if they resulted in caves that could be explored or used as shelter. Pits or caves will also offer some protection from cosmic rays, solar radiation and micrometeorites.

“About 16 of the more than 200 pits are likely collapsed lava tubes,” said Tyler Horvath, a doctoral student in planetary sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the new research, recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“Moon craters are a fascinating feature on the lunar surface,” said LRO project scientist Noah Petro of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Knowing that they create a stable thermal environment helps us paint a picture of these unique lunar features and the prospect of exploring them one day.”

Lava tubes, also found on Earth, form when molten lava flows under a cooled lava field or crusts over a lava river, leaving a long, hollow tunnel. If the roof of a solidified lava tube collapses, a pit opens that can lead to the rest of the cave-like tube.

Two of the most prominent pits have visible overhangs that clearly lead to caves or hollows, and there is strong evidence that the overhang of another may also lead to a large cave.

“Humans evolved living in caves, and we could go back to caves when we live on the Moon,” said David Paige, co-author of the paper who leads the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment at LRO that made the measurements. of temperature used in the study. .

Horvath processed data from Diviner, a thermal camera, to find out if the temperature inside the wells diverged from that on the surface.

Focusing on a roughly cylindrical depression 328 feet (100 meters) deep about the length and width of a football field in an area of ​​the Moon known as Mare Tranquillitatis, Horvath and colleagues they used computer modeling to analyze the thermal properties of lunar rock and dust and chart the crater’s temperatures over time.

The results revealed that temperatures within the permanently shaded areas of the pit fluctuate only slightly during the lunar day, remaining around 63 F or 17 C. If a cave extends from the bottom of the pit, as images taken by LRO’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera. suggests that it would also have this relatively comfortable temperature.

The team, which included UCLA planetary science professor David Paige and Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado Boulder, believes that the shadow is responsible for the constant temperature, limiting the heating of things during the day and preventing let the heat radiate at night.

A day on the Moon lasts about 15 Earth days, during which the surface is constantly bombarded by sunlight and is often hot enough to boil water. The brutally cold nights also last about 15 Earth days.

The research was funded by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project, Extended Mission 4. LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge of the Moon. Diviner was built and developed by the University of California, Los Angeles, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners to expand the human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! is not responsible for the accuracy of news releases published on EurekAlert! by contributory institutions or by the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *