NASA’s LRO finds areas on the Moon with habitable temperatures – Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex

Using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and computer modeling, a group of NASA-funded scientists have discovered shaded spots in trenches on the Moon that still hover around a “comfortable” temperature. ” of 17°C. .

These areas are thermally stable sites for lunar exploration compared to areas of the Moon’s surface that reach temperatures ranging from 127°C during the day to -173°C at night. Lunar exploration is part of NASA’s goal to explore and understand the unknown in space, to inspire and benefit humanity.

The pits were discovered in 2009, and since then scientists have wondered if they lead to caves that could be explored or used as shelter. In addition, they would also offer some protection against cosmic rays, solar radiation and micrometeorites.

“About 16 of the more than 200 trenches are likely collapsed lava tubes,” said Tyler Horvath, a doctoral student in planetary sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the new research. recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“Lunar trenches are a fascinating feature of the lunar surface,” said LRO project scientist Noah Petro, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Knowing that they create a stable thermal environment helps us paint a picture of these unique lunar features and the prospect of exploring them one day.”

Lava tubes, also found on Earth, form when molten lava flows beneath a cooled lava field or crusts over a river of lava, leaving a long, hollow tunnel. If the roof of a solidified lava tube collapses, a pit opens up that can lead to the rest of the cave-like tube.

Two of the larger pits have visible overhangs that clearly lead to caves or voids, and there is strong evidence that another’s overhang may also lead to a large cave.

“Humans evolved living in caves, and we may return to caves when we live on the Moon,” said David Paige, co-author of the paper who leads the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment on board the LRO which made the temperature measurements used in the study.

Horvath processed data from Diviner (a thermal camera) to find out if the temperature inside the pits diverged from that on the surface.x

Image of the Mare Tranquillitatis trench crater, with the Sun high, revealing rocks on a flat bottom. This LRO narrow angle camera image is 400 meters wide, north is up.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

Focusing on a roughly cylindrical depression 100 meters deep in an area of ​​the Moon known as Mare Tranquillitatis, Horvath and his colleagues used computer modeling to analyze the thermal properties of rock and dust. moons and record temperatures from the trench along the Moon. time.

The results revealed that temperatures in permanently shaded areas of the trench fluctuate only slightly during the lunar day, remaining around 17°C. If a cave extends from the bottom of the pit, as the images taken by the Chamber of the Lunar reconnaissance orbiter (LRO), you would also have this relatively comfortable temperature.

The team, which included UCLA planetary science professor David Paige and Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado (Boulder), believe that shadow casting is responsible for this constant temperature, which limits the heat during the day and prevents the heat from radiating. the night.

A day on the Moon lasts about 15 Earth days, during which the surface is constantly bombarded by sunlight and is normally hot enough to boil water. The brutally cold nights also last about 15 Earth days.

The research was funded by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project, Extended Mission 4. The LRO is managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland for the direction of science missions at NASA headquarters in Washington. LRO, launched on June 18, 2009, has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the Moon. Diviner was built and developed by the University of California, Los Angeles and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA returns to the Moon with commercial and international partnerships to expand the human presence in space and bring new knowledge and opportunities.

Original news

Edition: R. Castro.

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