NASA scientists have discovered shady locations within pits on the Moon that they say always hover around comfortable “sweater weather” of about 17°C (63°F).
The shafts and caves they can lead to make stable base camps safer and potential places for long-term habitation of the lunar surface where astronauts on future missions can “live and work,” researchers including from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US, let’s say. Ever since NASA began exploring the Moon, inventing heating and cooling equipment to operate under the harsh lunar conditions and produce enough energy to power it non-stop has been an insurmountable barrier, scientists say.
They believe these places on the Moon may provide better long-term habitation than the rest of the surface, which heats up to 260°F (126°C) during the day and drops to minus 280°F (-173°C). ) in the evening.
These pits were first discovered on the lunar surface in 2009, and scientists have long wondered if they led to caves that could be explored or used for shelter.
Studies have found that about 16 of the more than 200 pits discovered on the Moon are likely collapsed lava tubes. Such 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 one of those solidified lava tubes collapses, the researchers say it can open up a shaft that leads to the rest of the cave-like tube. In the new study published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters , scientists evaluated images from NASA’s robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to find out if the temperature inside the pits diverged from that on the surface.
They used computer models to analyze the thermal properties of lunar rock and dust in a roughly cylindrical depression 100 meters deep, about the length and width of a football field, in an area of the moon known as Mare Tranquillitatis. The scientists also recorded borehole temperatures over a period of time.
They found that temperatures within the permanently shadowed reaches of the well fluctuate only slightly during the lunar day, staying around 63°F. If a cave extended from the bottom of this pit, as the LRO images suggest, it too would have this relatively comfortable temperature, the study noted.
“Because the Tranquillitatis Pit is the closest to the lunar equator, the sunlit ground at noon is probably the hottest place on the entire moon,” said study co-author Tyler Horvath of UCLA. Building lunar bases in the shaded parts of these pits can allow scientists to focus on challenges like growing food, supplying oxygen for astronauts, gathering resources for experiments and expanding the base, they say.
Wells or caves can also offer protection from cosmic rays, solar radiation, and small meteorites.
“Although we cannot be completely certain of the existence of a cave through remote observations, such features would open the door for future exploration and habitation on the Moon: they could provide shelter from the dramatic temperature variations present elsewhere on the lunar surface. “, the researchers wrote.
“Humans evolved living in caves, and to caves we might return when we live on the moon,” said David Paige, another author of the study.