Lunar scientists believe they’ve found the hottest places on the moon, as well as about 200 temperate regions that are always close to San Francisco’s average temperature.
The Moon has wild temperature swings, with parts of the moon Heats up to 260 degrees Fahrenheit (127 degrees Celsius) during the day and drops to minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 173 degrees Celsius) at night. But 200 newly analyzed shaded moon craters are always 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius), which means they’re ideal for humans to shield from temperature extremes. They can also protect astronauts from the dangers of solar winds, micrometeorites, and cosmic rays. Some of these craters may lead to similarly warm caves.
Scientists say these partially shaded craters and dark caves could be ideal for a lunar base.
Tyler Horvath, a doctoral student in planetary sciences at UCLA and lead author on the NASA-funded research that was published online July 8 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (Opens in a new tab)for Live Science.
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It’s a revelation that took more than a decade to make. The first crater on the Moon was discovered in 2009 by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kaguya (formerly SELENE, for SELenological and ENgineering Explorer). However, this new work was performed using a thermal camera, the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
Of the 200 craters that have been discovered, two or three have outcrops that lead into a cave, while 16 appear to be “skylights” of collapsed lava tubes. On Earth, lava tubes are hollow caves found near the surface in volcanic regions – most notably Casumura Cave in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and La Cueva del Vento in Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
“As the lava flowed, the top of it froze while the lava continued to flow underneath, and in some places the lava emptied completely and left the lava tube,” Horvath said. If the lava tube collapses, a crater is created that acts as a “louver” in a long cavity.
This same process occurred billions of years ago when massive volcanic events on the moon created the famous dark lava fields on the moon’s surface called “maria,” a Latin word for sea.
“It is possible that these craters were the result of small impacts that created a hole in the roof of the lava tube or seismic activity that weakened the roof,” Horvath said.
In the new study, researchers analyzed Temperatures Inside a cylindrical crater about 328 feet (100 meters) deep in Mare Tranquillitatis – the Sea of Tranquility – near the moon’s equator. The team’s findings revealed that while the floor of the crater is illuminated at the moon’s back, it is probably the hottest place on the entire natural satellite surface, at about 300 F (149 C); Meanwhile, temperatures within the crater’s permanently shaded reaches fluctuate only slightly from Earth’s cap-like temperatures.
The crater is relatively close to where two of NASA’s Apollo missions landed. “Tranquillitatis crater is actually located at the same distance from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 landing sites, about 375 kilometers away. [233 miles] “If we end up there,” Horvath said away, “it would be amazing to see the ends of the Apollo program and how well preserved it is.”
This is a possibility. The study was initially to help inform the initial plans of moon diver mission (Opens in a new tab) Proposed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2020, that would lower the rover to Tranquilites Crater to explore any existing cave. “This rover will be able to study the layers of lava flows in the walls of the crater imaged by LRO, helping us to better understand the moon’s earlier history and evolution,” Horvath said. “There isn’t much left to study these craters from orbit, but there are plenty of opportunities if we go to one directly.”
Apollo 11’s “Base of Tranquility” could get a sequel underground.
Originally published on Live Science.