Lunar caves can provide shelter for astronauts

Lunar caves can provide shelter for astronauts
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A typical forecast for the month is far from comfortable, with temperatures ranging from boiling during the day to 280 degrees at night. But according to a new study, they are known to have unique properties may suggest moon pits An oasis of rollercoaster temperatures.

A team of planetary scientists at UCLA used NASA thermal imaging to find out what these lunar craters might be like. A lunar exploration orbiter and the temperature, in at least one of these pits, is always consistently set at 63 degrees. The findings were recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, and UCLA’s newsroom called it the discovery of year-round “Cossack weather.”

One of the authors of the study is Tyler Horvath, Ph.D. in planetary science. The UCLA student said the hole could be a lava tube or the opening of a cave, and would be a perfect temperature for astronauts, as well as an ideal place for protection from meteorites and radiation.

“Imagine one full day a month… you have 15 days of extreme heat well past the boiling point of water. And then it gets extremely cold for 15 days, one of the coldest temperatures in the entire solar system,” Horvath said. “So being able to be in a place where you don’t need to use energy to warm yourself for 15 days at night is almost invaluable, because if you’re trying to use solar energy as your primary energy during the night, you’re getting energy, you can’t do that for 15 days.”

The UCLA research team focused on a chasm in the Sea of ​​Tranquility, or Mare Trenquillitatis, about 220 miles from where Apollo 11 landed. Apollo 17 landing site.

A comfortable pixel per month

250-meter-per-pixel mapping using the average of all Channel 6 and 8 brightness temperature measurements from 9:00 PM to 4:00 AM for (a) Mare Tranquillitatis pit and (b) Mare Ingenii pit.
UCLA researchers have found a pixel in infrared images that indicates hotter spots on the Moon.
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

NASA’s LRO spacecraft has been continuously orbiting the moon since 2009, taking measurements with a suite of instruments including the Diviner Lunar Radiometer, which has been continuously mapping the moon’s thermal emissions.

UCLA planetary scientist David Paige is principal investigator of the Diviner instrument and lead author of the new lunar crater study.

Horvath was assigned to create a 3D model of one of these interesting pits in the Mare Trenquillitatis region. During this process, the team spotted a pixel in infrared images that was warmer than most spots on the Moon at night, when temperatures drop.

“We found that it was able to warm up really quickly and maintain a much warmer temperature than the surface normally does at night,” Horvath explained. “We say, ‘Oh, this might be more interesting than we thought.'”

Japan's SELENE/Kaguya Terrain Camera and Multiband Imager captured an ancient volcanic region of the moon called the Marius Hills.
Japan’s SELENE/Kaguya Terrain Camera and Multiband Imager captured an ancient volcanic region of the moon called the Marius Hills.
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

After rechecking the Diviner data and taking into account what sunlight the pit received, the team determined the temperature of the pit’s floor during the day. Unfortunately, this doesn’t confirm the opening of the cave, but it’s still a working theory about these pits being formed by ancient volcanic activity.

“It was still a wonderful result that if there was a cave there, it would always support a temperature of 63 Fahrenheit, 24 seven every day forever,” Horvath said.

How Trenquillitatis crater and other caves on the moon maintain their temperatures comes down to a physics concept known as a self-regulating blackbody cavity to maintain its temperature.

“It’s essentially a surface that’s a perfect radiation emitter and radiation absorber,” explains Horvath.

The temperature at the bottom of the hole also depends on its position relative to the Earth and the sun to the moon.

“If you were closer to the sun, the temperature would be warmer,” Horvath said. “It would be colder if you were away from the sun.”

How are lava tubes formed on the moon?

Even seen from Earth, it’s clear that the moon has interesting features, including craters of all shapes and sizes. In 2009, the Japanese spacecraft Kaguya orbiting the moon discovered a new lunar feature in the form of deep chasms that researchers believe may contain caves. with collapsed lava tubes, Similar to those found on Earth.

Thurston Lava Tube - Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii, USA.
UCLA researchers think the moon has lava caves similar to Devil’s Throat in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Universal Pictures Group via Sergi Reboredo/VW PICS/Getty Images

Horvath explains that billions of years ago there was intense volcanic activity and lava flows created dark spots today we see when we look at the moon. The lava on the surface cooled first as it was exposed to the cold temperatures of space, where the lava still flows from the caves below.

“In some places it will leave the lava completely and leave an empty tube beneath the surface, a lava tube,” Horvath said. “These holes are kind of our way of seeing that they exist, that there’s a path to them, and that they can be everywhere.”

NASA describes the moon opens the “skylights”. where the roof of the lava tube collapsed.

On Earth, the UCLA research team behind the study even visited a lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, known as Devil’s Throat, about the same size as the Mare Trenquillitatis crater. The park has other lava tubes that visitors can walk through, like the one pictured above.

Without physically going to the Moon and climbing a rock into one of these holes, it will be difficult for researchers to find out if these large caves exist. Finally, it may be possible, because within the next four years, NASA plans to return humans to the moon and establish a permanent base.

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