NASA’s LRO Finds Lunar Pits Harbor Comfortable Temperatures

Using information from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and computer modelling, researchers supported by NASA have found shadowed areas within lunar pits that always maintain a comfortable 63 F (approximately 17 C). Instead of areas on the Moon’s surface, which heat up to 260 F (about 127 C) during the day and cool to minus 280 F (approximately minus 173 C) at night, the trenches and caves to which they may lead would create thermally stable locations for lunar exploration.

Lunar exploration is a part of NASA’s mission to discover and comprehend the mysteries of space in order to uplift and benefit humanity. Since the 2009 initial discovery of pits on the Moon, researchers have pondered whether or not they would lead to caves that might be examined or utilised as shelters. The pits or caves would also provide some defence against micrometeorites, solar radiation, and cosmic rays.

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Tyler Horvath, a PhD student in planetary science at the University of California, Los Angeles, led the new research, which was just published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “About 16 of the more than 200 pits are presumably collapsed lava tubes,” Horvath said. The LRO Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Noah Petro, called lunar pits “a interesting feature on the lunar surface.” The possibility of one day examining these distinctive lunar features is made more appealing by the knowledge that they produce a stable temperature environment.

Lava tubes are another type of lava formation that can be seen on Earth. They are formed when molten lava flows beneath a field of cooled lava or when a crust forms over a river of lava, leaving a lengthy, hollow tunnel. When the ceiling of a solidified lava tube falls, a hole may be created that can access the remaining portion of the cavernous tube. There is significant indication that the overhang of one pit may also lead to a sizable cave, while the overhangs of the two most noticeable pits clearly lead to caves or voids.

“Humans developed while living in caves, and we may return to caves when we reside on the Moon,” said David Paige, a co-author of the study and the leader of the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment aboard LRO, which took the temperature readings for the study. Horvath examined thermal camera data from Diviner to see whether temperatures inside the trenches varied from those on the surface.

Horvath and his colleagues used computer modelling to examine the thermal characteristics of the rock and lunar dust and to chart the pit’s temperatures over time. They focused on a roughly cylindrical, 328-foot (100-meter)-deep depression in the Mare Tranquillitatis region of the Moon that is roughly the length and width of a football field.

The findings showed that the pit’s permanently darkened regions experience relatively minor temperature changes during the lunar day, staying at a constant 63 F or 17 C. A cave would also have this somewhat pleasant temperature if it protrudes from the bottom of the pit, as suggested by photos collected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).

The team, which includes UCLA planetary science professor David Paige and University of Colorado Boulder professor Paul Hayne, thinks the overhanging overhang is to blame for the constant temperature, regulating how hot it gets during the day and preventing heat from escaping at night. The length of an Earth day is around 15 days on the Moon, where the surface is frequently hot enough to boil water and is constantly exposed to sunlight. Also, very cold periods last for roughly 15 days on Earth. The study’s funding came from NASA’s Extended Mission 4 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter programme.

LRO is overseen by the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. With its seven potent instruments, LRO, which was launched on June 18, 2009, has amassed a vast amount of data and made a priceless contribution to our understanding of the Moon. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Los Angeles, created and developed Diviner. In order to increase human presence in space and bring back new information and opportunities, NASA is travelling back to the Moon with the help of private industry and international partners.

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