UNITED STATES: Three pits on the Moon were initially discovered by scientists in 2009 using photos taken by the Japanese Kaguya satellite. The Hiten probe was followed by the second Japanese lunar orbiter mission, Kaguya, launched in September 2007.
Later, using a new computer program that automatically scanned thousands of high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface from the US Space agency NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Narrow-Angle Camera, hundreds more pits were discovered on the surface of the Moon.
The pits vary in size from roughly 5 metres wide to more than 900 metres in circumference. In huge craters with impact melt ponds—areas of lava that developed from the heat of the impact and later solidified—or in lunar maria—dark regions on the Moon that are enormous, solidified lava flows hundreds of miles across—the majority of pits were discovered.
Since “maria” is Latin for “seas,” it was once believed that the maria were oceans. Different cultures have assigned different interpretations to the patterns created by the same traits; for instance, some have seen a man’s face while others have seen a youngster carrying a load of sticks on his back or a rabbit.
Lunar investigation and a new revelation regarding the Moon’s holes
Since their 2009 discovery, researchers have pondered whether or not these pits are connected to caves that might be examined or utilised as shelters.
The pits or caves would also provide some protection from solar radiation, micrometeorites, and cosmic rays.
Using information from NASA’s LRO mission and computer modelling, researchers recently found shaded areas within lunar pits that consistently maintain a pleasant 17 degrees Celsius temperature.
In contrast to places on the Moon’s surface, which heat up to roughly 127 degrees Celsius during the day and cool to minus 173 degrees Celsius at night, the pits and caves to which they may lead would make thermally stable sites for lunar research.
On the Moon, a day lasts roughly 15 Earth days, when the surface is frequently hot enough to boil water and constantly exposed to sunlight. The Moon also experiences brutally frigid nights that last over 15 days.
Long-term lunar exploration is challenging due to the Moon’s uneven surface temperature. The Moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth.
Some lunar pits might represent lava tubes that have collapsed
The new study, which was recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was led by Tyler Horvath is a doctoral student in planetary science at the University of California, Los Angeles. “About 16 of the more than 200 pits are probably collapsed lava tubes,” he said.
According to LRO Project Scientist Noah Petro of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, “lunar pits are an interesting feature on the lunar surface.”
We can better visualise these distinctive lunar features and the possibility of one day exploring them by knowing that they produce a stable temperature environment, Petro continued.
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. Lava tubes can also be found on Earth. An opening into the inside of a solidified lava tube may result from the collapse of the ceiling.
There is considerable evidence that the overhang of one pit may also lead to a massive cave, and two of the most notable Lunar pits have overhangs that are clearly visible and lead to caverns or voids.
According to David Paige, a co-author of the study and the leader of the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment aboard LRO, humans may return to caves if they dwell on the Moon, which took the temperature readings for the study. To determine whether the temperature inside the pits differed from that on the surface, Horvath processed data from Diviner, a thermal camera.
Horvath and his colleagues used computer modelling to analyse the thermal characteristics of the rock and lunar dust and to chart the pit’s temperatures over time, concentrating on a roughly cylindrical, 100-meter-deep depression about the length and width of a football field in a region of the Moon known as the Mare Tranquillitatis, NASA said in a statement.
According to the findings, the temperature in the permanently shaded parts of the pit stays about 17 degrees Celsius throughout the lunar day with only minor fluctuations.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera’s photos indicate that a cave may extend from the bottom of the pit; if so, it would also have this generally pleasant temperature.
The team, which included University of Colorado Boulder professor Paul Hayne and UCLA professor of planetary science David Paige, believes the shadowing overhang is to blame for the constant temperature by regulating how hot it gets during the day and preventing heat from escaping at night.