Typical forecasts on the Moon are anything but comfortable, and temperatures range from boiling during the day to minus 280 at night. However, according to a new study, a unique feature known as lunar drilling may be propelling a temperature rollercoaster oasis.
To find out what lies inside these lunar craters, a team of planetary scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles used thermal imaging from NASA. The Moon Reconnaissance Vehicle and the temperature setting in at least one of these holes always remained constant at 63 degrees. The findings were recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, and the UCLA newsroom calls it a year-long “weather jacket” discovery.
One of the study’s authors, Tyler Horvath, has a PhD in planetary science. A University of California student said the crater could be a lava tube or cave opening and would be an ideal habitat for astronauts, offering ideal temperatures as well as protection from meteorites and radiation.
“Imagine a full day on the moon… you have 15 days of extreme heat that is beyond the boiling point of water. And then you have 15 days of extreme cold, the coldest in the entire solar system, Horvath said. , “So the ability to be in a place where you don’t need to expend energy to warm yourself for 15 days at night is almost invaluable because at night, if you use the sun as your primary form of obtaining energy, If you try to use it, you can’t for 15 days.”
The UCLA research team focused on the gorge in the Sea of Tranquility, or Mari Trinquilites region, which is approximately 220 miles from the Apollo 11 landing site as well as the same distance from the Apollo 17 landing site.
cozy pixel on the moon
NASA’s LRO spacecraft continues to orbit the Moon by taking measurements with its instrument cluster, which includes the Diviner Lunar Radiometer, which has continuously mapped the Moon’s heat emissions since 2009.
UCLA planetary scientist David Page, principal investigator of the Diviner instrument and lead author of a new study in lunar craters.
Horvath has been commissioned to create a 3D model of one of the interesting craters in the Marie Trinquilites area. During that process, the team observed a pixel in the infrared image that was warmer than most places on the Moon when temperatures dropped at night.
“We saw that very quickly it was able to heat up and maintain a higher-than-normal surface temperature at night,” Horvath explains. “We were like, ‘Oh, this might be a lot more interesting than we thought.
After re-examining the Diviner data and observing the sunlight emanating from the hole, the team determined daytime temperatures in the crater. Unfortunately, this does not confirm the opening of the cave, but it is still a working theory about the crater formed by ancient volcanic activity.
“It’s still a great finding that if there was a cave, it would support temperatures of 63 F all the time, basically 24 seven every day, basically,” Horvath said.
How Tranquillitatis Crater and other caves on the Moon maintain their temperature goes back to a physical concept known as a black body cavity, which can self-regulate to maintain its temperature.
“It’s basically a surface that is an ideal radiation source and radiation absorber,” Horvath explains.
The temperature below the crater also depends on its position relative to the Earth and the Moon from the Sun.
“If you’re close to the Sun, it’s going to be hot,” Horvath said. “If you’re away from the sun, it’s going to be very cold.”
How do 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 Kaguya spacecraft orbiting the Japanese moon discovered a new type of lunar feature in the form of deep fissures, which researchers believe may be caves formed. by a collapsed lava tube, similar to those on Earth.
Horvath explains that billions of years ago, there was very intense volcanic activity and lava flows. Create the dark spots we see today when we look at the Moon. The lava at the surface will cool first as it is exposed to the colder temperatures in outer space because the caves beneath the lava are still flowing.
“In some places, the lava actually came out and would leave a hollow tube, a lava tube beneath the surface,” Horvath said. “These holes are our way of seeing that they are there, there is a way to get there, and they can be everywhere.”
NASA describes drilling the Moon as a “manipulator” where the roof of a lava tube collapses.
On Earth, the UCLA research team behind the study visited a lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, known as Devil’s Throat, which is similar in size to Mare Tranquillitatis Crater. The park is home to another lava tube, as pictured above, that visitors can walk through.
Without a moon and rock climbing actually in one of these craters, it would be difficult for researchers to know whether these giant caves actually exist. Ultimately, that’s probably because within the next four years, NASA plans to return humans to the Moon and establish a permanent base.