Moon caves could provide shelter for astronauts

A typical forecast on the Moon is nowhere near as comfortable, with temperatures ranging from boiling during the day to minus 280 at night. However, according to a new study, unique features known as Moon craters may offer An oasis from rollercoaster temperatures.

To learn what might happen inside these lunar craters, a team of planetary scientists at UCLA used NASA’s thermal imaging. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter And determined the temperature, at least in one of these pits, is always a consistent 63 degrees. The findings were recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, and UCLA’s newsroom is calling this year-long discovery “sweater weather.”

One of the study authors, Tyler Horvath, a planetary science Ph.D. The UCLA student said the crater could be a lava tube or cave opening and would be an ideal place for astronauts to live, providing the right temperature as well as protection from meteorites and radiation.

“Imagine a full day on the moon… you have 15 days of extreme heat that goes far beyond the boiling point of water. And then you have 15 days of extreme cold, the coldest temperature in the entire solar system It is,” Horvath said. “So being able to be in a place where you don’t have to expend energy to keep yourself warm during those 15 days of the night is almost invaluable because during the night, if you use solar energy as your main form of energy, that’s all. You’re trying to use up energy, so you can’t do that for 15 days.”

The UCLA research team focused on the trench in the Sea of ​​Tranquility or Mare Tranquility area, which is approximately 220 miles from the Apollo 11 landing and its equivalent distance. Apollo 17 landing site.

a cozy pixel on the moon

250 m per pixel mapping using the mean of all channels 6 and 8 brightness temperature measurements taken between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. for (a) the Mare Tranquillitatis pit and (b) the Mare Ingeni pit.
Researchers at UCLA looked at a single pixel in the infrared images, which showed that the Moon has hot spots.
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

NASA’s LRO spacecraft continues to orbit the Moon, taking measurements with its suite of instruments, including the Diviner Lunar Radiometer, which has been continuously mapping the Moon’s thermal emissions since 2009.

UCLA Planetary Scientist David Paige is the principal investigator of the Diviner instrument and lead author of the new study about the Moon Pit.

Horvath was tasked with creating a 3D model of one of these interesting craters in the Mare Tranquillitatis area. During that process, the team observed a single pixel in the infrared images that was warmer than most places on the Moon at night when temperatures dipped.

“We saw that it actually warmed up quickly and was able to maintain a temperature warmer than the surface, which usually happens at night,” Horvath explained. “We’re like, ‘Oh, this might be a lot more interesting than we thought.

The Japanese Selene/Kaguya Terrain Camera and Multiband Imager captured the ancient volcanic region of the Moon called the Marius Hills.
The Japanese Selene/Kaguya Terrain Camera and Multiband Imager captured the ancient volcanic region of the Moon called the Marius Hills.
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

After re-examining the Diviner data and considering what sunlight the pit receives, the team determined the pit floor temperature during the day. Unfortunately, this does not confirm the opening of a cave, but it is still the working theory about these craters formed by ancient volcanic activity.

“It was still a good result that if there’s a cave, it would support temperatures that are 63 Fahrenheit all the time, 24 seven every single day forever, basically,” Horvath said.

How Tranquillitatis craters and other caves on the Moon maintain their temperatures comes down to a physics concept known as a blackbody cavity, which can self-regulate to maintain its temperature.

“It is essentially a surface that is an ideal emitter of radiation and an absorber of radiation,” Horvath explains.

The temperature of the bottom of the crater also depends on its position relative to the Earth and the Moon from the Sun.

“If you’re closer to the Sun, the temperature will be hotter,” Horvath said. “If you are further from the sun, it will be cold.”

How did lava tubes form on the moon?

Even from Earth, it’s clear that the Moon has interesting features, including craters of all shapes and sizes. In 2009, the Japanese spacecraft Kaguya discovered a new type of lunar feature in the form of deep trenches orbiting the Moon, which researchers believe may contain caves. by collapsing lava tubes, similar to those found on Earth.

Thurston Lava Tube - Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii, USA.
UCLA researchers believe the moon has lava caves similar to Devil’s Throat in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Sergi Reboredo / VW Pix / Universal Image Group via Getty Images

Horvath explains that billions of years ago, there was very intense volcanic activity and lava flows made dark spots We see today when we look at the moon. The lava on the surface would cool first because it was exposed to the cold temperatures of space where the lava bottom caves still flowed.

“In some places, that lava will drain completely and leave a hollow tube, a lava tube beneath the surface,” Horvath said. “These pits are our way of seeing that they exist, that they have a path, and that they can be everywhere.”

Description of NASA Moon Crater as “Lightlight” Where the roof of the lava tube collapsed.

On Earth, the UCLA research team behind the study also visited a lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, known as Devil’s Throat, which is similar in shape to the Mare Tranquillitatis crater. The park is home to other lava tubes, as pictured above, that visitors can walk through.

Without physically climbing the moon and rock in one of these craters, it would be hard for researchers to know whether these giant caves exist. Eventually, it may be possible, because in the next four years, NASA plans to return humans to the Moon and establish a permanent base.

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