Science

The strange warm pits of the moon may be the most pleasant place for astronauts

The surface of the Moon is littered with hundreds of small pits, each the size of a large building, and more than just the size of the pits may seem familiar to an astronaut.

Now scientists have measured the temperature inside one of these pits at 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius). The mild conditions are a sign that such pits, which can be up to 490 feet (150 meters) across, could offer future astronauts and lunar dwellers a refuge from the extreme conditions on the lunar surface.

Using the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Diviner experiment, scientists measured the temperature inside a single pit located in the Sea of ​​Tranquility, the dark volcanic floodplain where Apollo 11 landed in 1969. lunar day, which lasts about two Earth weeks.

“Knowing that they create a stable thermal environment helps us paint a picture of these unique features of the Moon and the prospect of studying them one day,” Noah Petro, orbiter project scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. NASA.

On the subject: The moon dazzles in a photo from the International Space Station

Since the Japanese SELENE orbiter (Kaguya) first discovered one of these pits in 2009, scientists have identified more than 200 of them. Scientists aren’t sure how each pit formed, but they believe at least some of them lead into lava tubes: long, winding caverns formed by outgrowths of flowing lava that ate away at the rock.

Some of the pits have visible stone ledges that hint at caves below. Indeed, when these researchers compared their readings to computer simulations of the temperature in the particular pit they were studying, the results were consistent with the existence of the cave.

If these pits are the entrances to lava tubes, this is a promising sign for would-be lunar explorers. Some researchers are planning a future in which humans will visit and even live in the Moon’s lava tubes.

Down there, astronauts could take shelter from the extreme temperature swings, radiation, and micrometeorites that hit everything on the lunar surface.

The researchers published the paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on July 8.

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