Scientists using computer modelling and data analysis from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) satellite have found shadowed areas within lunar pits on the Moon that are consistently around a pleasant 17 Celsius, a temperature that is suitable for humans.
In contrast to places at the Moon's surface, which heat up to approximately 127 Celsius during the day and cool to about -173 Celsius at night, the pits and caverns to which they may lead would make thermally stable habitats for lunar research.
Tyler Horvath, a doctoral student in planetary science at the University of California, Los Angeles and his colleagues used computer modelling to analyse the thermal properties of the rock and lunar dust to chart the pit's temperatures over time.
According to the findings, the temperature inside the permanently shaded portions of the pit fluctuates just a little throughout the lunar day and stays at roughly 17 Celsius. The LRO's photos indicate that a cave may extend from the bottom of the pit; if so, it would also have this generally agreeable temperature.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images of pits indicate that the Moon has caves. Could they become astronaut habitats?— NASA Moon (@NASAMoon) July 26, 2022
Scientists have discovered that parts of the pits are always about 63°F (17°C), differing from extreme temperatures at the Moon's surfacehttps://t.co/K0sm1CLqal
On Earth, when molten lava flows beneath a field of cooled lava or a crust forms over a river of lava, a long, hollow tunnel known as a lava tube is created. If the ceiling of this lava tube collapses, it creates a pit that can lead into the rest of the cave-like tube. Similar to these pits, lunar pits exist on the Moon.
“Pits were first discovered on the Moon in 2009, and since then, scientists have wondered if they led to caves that could be explored or used as shelters,” according to NASA's latest update on lunar pits. Pits also offer protection against solar radiation and cosmic rays.
“Lunar pits are a fascinating feature on the lunar surface,” said LRO Project Scientist Noah Petro of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The knowledge that these pits offer comfortable temperatures would be useful in further exploring them.
LRO, which was launched on June 18, 2009, has gathered a wealth of data with its seven potent sensors and made a priceless contribution to our understanding of the Moon.