Knocksense Unwind | NASA discovers thermally-stable pits on the Moon
A recent revelation by scientists analysing data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and computer modelling, has got the whole world talking! The scientists have discovered thermally-stable shaded locations in the lunar pits, having a temperature of 17˚C and suitable for life.
The finding ultimately pushes forward NASA's aim to traverse the uncharted territory in space, moving one step closer to Mission Humans on Moon!
Cave near lunar pits suitable for shelter
Notably, a total of 15 days on the Earth make one lunar day and a single lunar night equals 15 days on the Earth as well. Due to the striking temperature change between day and night, the daytime on the moon is exceptionally hot, enough to boil water whereas the nights are brutally cold.
After analysing the thermal properties of the rock and lunar dust by computer modelling, Horvath and his colleagues at NASA prepared a chart with the pit's temperatures over time. Unlike the temperature on the lunar surface which fluctuates to 127°C during the day and cools down to about -173°C at night, the temperature at the lunar pits does not alter much.
As per this study, the temperature within the permanently shadowed areas of the pit remained somewhat around 17°C altered throughout the lunar day. Moreover, according to the images captured by LRO's camera, caves extending from the bottom of the pit are also likely to have a relatively comfortable temperature, suitable for human beings.
Findings to boost new exploration projects!
The research team is of the view that the stability in the temperature of the pits is a result of the shadowing overhang. This not only limits the rise in mercury during the day but also stops the heat from radiating away at night, ensuring a steady temperature.
According to Tyler Horvath, a PhD student in planetary science at the University of California in Los Angeles who steered the new research published in Geophysical Research Letters, "About 16 of the more than 200 pits are probably collapsed lava tubes".
While talking about the pits, LRO Project Scientist Noah Petro of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said, "Lunar pits are a fascinating feature on the lunar surface."
"Knowing that they create a stable thermal environment helps us paint a picture of these unique lunar features and the prospect of one day exploring them", added the Project Scientist.
Humans on the Moon, soon?
The lunar pits have been attracting scientists ever since its discovery in 2009. The scientists wished to know if these pits on the moon led to caves that could be used as shelters for humans during their lunar exploration expeditions. Since its inception in 2009, LRO has been unravelling a treasure trove of data about the Moon, finally offering the much-awaited conclusion.
With the help of its seven powerful instruments, LRO has filed out unknown facts about the Moon, paving the way to understand the unknown. This new finding that claims lunar pits to be thermally-stable sites is definitely good news for explorers and scientists who wish to charter mysterious territories in space.
Apart from being used as shelters, the caves near pits can also help in protecting astronauts from micrometeorites, harmful cosmic rays and solar radiation. Moreover, this piece of information might also amp up the ongoing work on Apollo's ambitious mission of landing humans on the moon!